Stakeholder Management – Eliminating the Risk of Project Failure

There are many reasons why a project could fail.  Many of those reasons can be directly related to stakeholder management.  What is a stakeholder?  The best way to define a stakeholder is to determine all resources that may be positively or negatively impacted by a project.  A stakeholder may also be an individual that has influence over the project.  Key stakeholders may include:

  • Project Manager
  • Sponsor
  • Team Members
  • Customers
  • 3rd Party Vendors
  • Business Entity
  • Individual Departments

Stakeholder management is not only important in the planning stages of a project, but throughout the entire project life cycle.  Let’s say that you want to implement a PPM system to your organization.  How do you determine who your stakeholders are?  It is absolutely critical to determine your stakeholders up front.  If you leave one out, you will most likely have to incorporate changes in requirements midstream which can lead to cost overruns and late delivery.  Some questions you may ask to help identify stakeholders could be:

Who is paying for the project?
Who will be leading the project?
Who will the project impact?
Who will be using the PPM system?  In this case, who is the customer?
What resources will you most likely need on the project and who leads those resources?
What data outputs will the PPM system produce and who would be interested in that data?

Once all stakeholders are determined, you must gather ALL of their requirements.  This process takes time.  Every requirement must be gathered up front before the work begins.  If requirements are missed, change to the plan will be unavoidable and the repercussions will inevitably impact your schedule, cost, resources and/or quality.  Because you cannot always guarantee that all requirements will be accounted for up front, you must ensure a proper change management, risks and issues process is in place to better mitigate the impact of such changes.  Asking the right questions is key to ensuring all requirements have been documented and signed off on.  Find out how stakeholders do their jobs today and ensure that the tool will allow them to follow the same processes that work today tomorrow and address the areas that need improvement in later stages of the project.  Too much functionality can lead to poor user adoption. 

The next step, manage expectations.  First of all you must ensure that everyone is working toward the same goal.  What expectations do your stakeholders have regarding the proposed project.  How do they think the project will impact them or their team.  Maybe they assume that after implementing the new PPM system, other systems in use currently will be retired.  Assumptions aren’t good, make sure you identify all expectations so that they can be managed and controlled throughout the project. 

Communicate, communicate, communicate!!!  How is the project going?  Have you identified risks?  Are some of the requirements impossible to implement?  Information must be shared and communicated to all stakeholders throughout the life of the project.  Upfront communication will prevent rework and costly changes to the project.  Use a project management tool that has strong collaboration features.  Ensure that stakeholders have a strong influence over requirements upfront but manage their influence as the project proceeds to prevent constant changes and rework. 

In conclusion, stakeholder management can make or break a project.  Make sure you identify stakeholders and their requirements upfront before the project begins execution.  As the project commences make sure you involve all stakeholders in lessons learned activities.  For more information on stakeholder management, please see white paper “PPM for the Enterprise- Whose System is it Anyway“.