Stakeholders – thoughts about identifying and getting buy-in

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Stakeholders to a programme or project are made up of one or all of the following: individuals, teams or even organisations who have a connection to, or are potentially impacted by the proposed solution that your project or programme will deliver.

There is no definitive stakeholder guide you can draw on, but in essence they will be identified through using techniques such as stakeholder mapping. So what things should we consider?

The number of stakeholders that will engage will change throughout the project. It’s usual that those with seniority will participate, ad-hoc, as required, as a champion for the project and occasionally as an ever present micro manager. If your project is seen as critical then you are likely to find stakeholders will seek you out! Overall though it is important to identify them in an organised and timely fashion. It is likely that key individuals are will be engaged throughout the lifecycle.

If your project is part of a programme then identification is usually undertaken there, but if the project is stand-alone then stakeholder identification will be a project team task.

How should we approach the identification activity? First the team should discuss and make a list of who should be or who might want to be involved in the process. Once captured then the team should attempt to engage as many of this group as possible. Make sure the focus is on identifying the correct stakeholders rather than on worrying about numbers and names.

To aide in the activity it is an idea to seek input from stakeholders of current or past similar projects or solicit views from trusted peers in the field you are working in and organise a team meeting to pool ideas. During these meetings the type of trigger questions can be; who potentially may be impacted by the project; what is this impact; who wants it to succeed and is there anyone who may be a blocker; are their parties who have sufficient power to give a positive or even negative impact on the project outcome; how will you be financed; what support can you get to address particular problems that may arise; identify the route to resourcing and are there any unique skills needed by the project?

It is useful to group stakeholders for ease of identification, defining this in your communication plans; this is where a stakeholder map tool can really help out. You should determine any key stakeholders but ensure that as the project progresses and changes you reflect this in your mapping.

You should ensure that you communicate appropriately to all of the stakeholders as captured in your communication plan, stick to this discipline and it will ensure you work well with your stakeholders. There will be differing types of communication depending on the individuals, their preferences and also whether the communication needs to be formal or informal.

By ensuring regular and appropriate communications then everybody will feel engaged in the project and you’ll be able to pulse the commitment, or otherwise early and manage accordingly to ensure your project stays on track.

Stakeholder management when done well is a big part of any successful programme or project ensure you treat it as an important part of the project journey.