Stakeholder management ensures that stakeholders are appropriately involved in all aspects of the project, programme or portfolio. Its goals are to:
- ensure that the views and attitudes of all stakeholders are understood;
- influence stakeholders to be supportive of the work wherever possible;
- maximise the impact of supportive stakeholders;
- minimise the impact of unsupportive stakeholders.
Stakeholders are individuals or groups with an interest in the project, programme or portfolio because they are involved in the work or affected by the outcomes.
Most projects, programmes and portfolios will have a variety of stakeholders with different and sometimes competing interests. These individuals and groups can have significant influence over the eventual success or failure of the work.
Given that an understanding of stakeholders is so important to other functions, it is worth investing significant effort on this early in the identification process.
This will ensure a more robust brief and a more efficient start to the definition process.
Working with stakeholders is a vital component of many functional procedures. For example, requirements management is based on stakeholders’ wants and needs, and risk context (and therefore risk management) is based on understanding stakeholder appetite for, and attitude to, risk.
The stakeholder management procedure has six steps. It starts with the planning step that defines the scope and objectives of stakeholder management and results in the stakeholder management plan. The initiation step is performed once the work is approved and the resources needed to manage stakeholders are mobilised.
The identification of stakeholders can involve interviews, brainstorming, checklists, lessons learned etc. Understanding the relationships between stakeholders and their different areas of interest is usually achieved through stakeholder mapping. Common types of stakeholder include:
- staff, contractors and suppliers who are performing the work;
- individuals and groups who are affected by the creation of outputs or outcomes;
- owners, customers or funders of the host organisation;
- statutory, regulatory and governmental bodies.
More detailed stakeholder maps will assess each stakeholder in terms of their interest in the work and influence over the way it is performed. Those with an ability to directly affect the objectives are sometimes highlighted as being the key stakeholders.
Typical issues to consider when assessing each stakeholder are:
- How will they be affected by the work?
- Will they be openly for, against or ambivalent to the work?
- What are their expectations and how can these be managed?
- Who and/or what are the primary influences on the stakeholder’s view of the project?
- Who would be the best person to engage with the stakeholder?
Once the stakeholders have been assessed, plans can be put in place to communicate with them with a view to influencing their interest and influence. The principles of how stakeholders will be approached are described in the stakeholder management plan while the detailed communications are set out in a communications plan.
Plans for communication with stakeholders who have high levels of interest and influence will be different from those who have low levels interest and influence. Similarly, communication with stakeholders who are naturally positive about the work will be different from those who are negative.
The communications planning will identify the ideal people to engage with each stakeholder. In many cases the P3 manager will take on the task, but it is also useful to call upon peers, senior managers or others who may be better placed. Engaging with more senior stakeholders is often the role of the sponsor.
Stakeholder management becomes more complex when stakeholders’ views, roles or allegiances etc. change throughout the life cycle. For that reason, the stakeholder management steps must be repeated throughout the life cycle.
Projects, programmes and portfolios
On a small project, the project manager will probably be able to identify who all the stakeholders are, perhaps with help from the sponsor. A simple stakeholder map will suffice and the communications activities may be included in the project plan. Stakeholder management is an important activity, even on the smallest of projects. Project managers can make a big difference to the eventual success of the project simply by ensuring they understand their stakeholders and taking time to engage with and influence them.
In programmes and large projects stakeholder maps should be created at different levels and will be the responsibility of the project managers and programme manager respectively. Stakeholders should only appear on maps where they have an identifiable interest or influence. Those with an interest in a project should be on the project-level map. Those with an interest in multiple projects, or the business-as-usual being affected by the projects, should also appear on the programme-level map.
Where stakeholders have an interest in multiple projects, the programme-level map must clearly differentiate their interests and influence in each. This ensures that stakeholders appear in only one communication plan and avoids the danger of mixed messages.
Programme support will maintain the stakeholder documentation and may include a communication specialist. It will also liaise, as appropriate, with either corporate communications or a portfolio support function where one exists.
In a structured portfolio the management team needs to co-ordinate the stakeholder management activity of all component projects, programmes and business-as-usual areas within the portfolio. They must also maintain a portfolio-wide stakeholder management plan which needs to cover aspects such as:
the overall stakeholder management policy, including key stakeholder groups and interfaces;
how the stakeholder management policy will be monitored;
how stakeholder management at project and programme level will be co-ordinated and supported;
gathering and publicising senior management support for the portfolio processes and portfolio content.
Stakeholder management can be one of the most challenging activities within structured portfolios. Change management across the portfolio can be undermined if there are local areas of an organisation with poor stakeholder commitment.