Stakeholder management is critical to the success of every project. By definition larger projects and programmes will affect more and more people. The more people you affect, the more likely it is that your actions will impact people who have power and influence over your projects. These people could be strong supporters of your work – or they could block it. Stakeholder Management is an important discipline to help win support from others and Stakeholder Analysis is the technique used to identify the key people who have to be won over.
One of the key benefits of using a stakeholder-based approach is that you can use the opinions of the most powerful stakeholders to shape your projects at an early stage. Not only does this make it more likely that they will support you, their input can also improve the quality of your project Gaining support from powerful stakeholders can help you to win more resources – this makes it more likely that your projects will be successful By communicating with stakeholders early and frequently, you can ensure that they fully understand what you are doing and understand the benefits of your project – this means they can support you actively when necessary You can anticipate what people’s reaction to your project may be, and build into your plan the actions that will win people’s support.
The first step in Stakeholder Analysis is to identify who your stakeholders are. The next step is to work out their power, influence and interest, so you know who you should focus on. The final step is to develop a good understanding of the most important stakeholders so that you know how they are likely to respond, and so that you can work out how to win their support – you can record this analysis on a stakeholder map. The steps of Stakeholder Analysis are explained below:
Step 1 – Identify Your Stakeholders The first step in your Stakeholder Analysis is to brainstorm who your stakeholders are. As part of this, think of all the people who are affected by your work, who have influence or power over it, or have an interest in its successful or unsuccessful conclusion. Often people include members of the project or programme team as stakeholders. I don’t generally – after all, you will probably have enough stakeholders to deal with, and I feel that the way you interact with team members is fundamentally different from the way you interact with stakeholders. However it is worth remembering that internal managers – the people your team report to in a matrix managed organisation – are often key stakeholders for you
Step 2 – Prioritize Your Stakeholders You may now have a long list of people or organizations that are affected by your work. Some of these may have the power either to block or advance. Some may be interested in what you are doing, others may not care. Map out your stakeholders on a Power/Interest Grid as shown in figure 1, and classify them by their power over your work and by their interest in your work.
For example, the Senior Responsible Owner in MSP is likely to have high power and influence over the project and high interest. Peer managers may have high interest, but are unlikely to have power over it. Someone’s position on the grid shows you the actions you have to take with them: High power, interested people: these are the people you must fully engage and make the greatest efforts to satisfy. High power, less interested people: put enough work in with these people to keep them satisfied, but not so much that they become bored with your message. Low power, interested people: keep these people adequately informed, and talk to them to ensure that no major issues are arising. These people can often be very helpful with the detail of your project. Low power, less interested people: again, monitor these people, but do not bore them with excessive communication.
Step 3 – Understand Your Key Stakeholders You now need to know more about your key stakeholders. You need to know how they are likely to feel about and react to your project. You also need to know how best to engage them in your project and how best to communicate with them. Key questions that can help you understand your stakeholders are: What financial or emotional interest do they have in the outcome of your work? Is it positive or negative? What motivates them most of all? What information do they want from you? How do they want to receive information from you? What is the best way of communicating your message to them? What is their current opinion of your work? Is it based on good information? Who influences their opinions generally, and who influences their opinion of you? Do some of these influencers therefore become important stakeholders in their own right? If they are not likely to be positive, what will win them around to support your project? If you don’t think you will be able to win them around, how will you manage their opposition? Who else might be influenced by their opinions? Do these people become stakeholders in their own right? A very good way of answering these questions is to talk to your stakeholders directly – people are often quite open about their views, and asking people’s opinions is often the first step in building a successful relationship with them. You can summarize the understanding you have gained on the stakeholder map, so that you can easily see which stakeholders are expected to be blockers or critics, and which stakeholders are likely to be advocates and supporters or your project. A good way of doing this is by color coding: showing advocates and supporters in green, blockers and critics in red, and others who are neutral in orange.
When you have identified the stakeholders and analysed their impact on the project or programme, you need to move on to decide what you do to manage them. This is covered in the next stage, stakeholder planning.