Most business projects involve multiple stakeholders. Coming from different backgrounds and providing a variety of expertise, these project stakeholders come together to take a project from idea to execution.
As the project manager, it’s crucial to communicate with them, get their feedback, and ensure they’re happy with the project’s outcome.
How do you do this effectively while juggling other PM duties, such as managing budgets and tracking schedules? You need a stakeholder management plan.
To help you manage your project stakeholders like a pro, we go over what is a stakeholder management plan, why it matters, and outline the steps to create one.
What Is a Stakeholder in Project Management?
First things first, let’s clear up our understanding of who a project stakeholder is.
A project stakeholder is anyone with an interest or investment in your project. Stakeholders are diverse and come with varied and sometimes completely conflicting interests depending on how they’ll be impacted by the project. The project manager should ensure that every stakeholder understands the project goals and objectives for them to be able to work together despite their varying interests. Stakeholders may also change at various stages of a project’s lifecycle if their priorities or interests change.
Who your stakeholders are may vary from project to project, depending on the type of project and industry. However, there are a few stakeholders you can expect to find in all projects.
- Company owners
- Senior management
- Project manager
- Resource managers
- Team members
- Customers/end users
Generally, stakeholders in project management will typically fall under two groups:
- Internal stakeholders: These stakeholders come from within your business, such as senior executives, resource managers, project managers, project team members, and so on.
- External stakeholders: These are stakeholders from outside the business, such as customers, end-users, suppliers, and investors.
How to Work with Project Stakeholders
Ultimately, it’s the project manager’s responsibility to manage the different stakeholders and their expectations, for the project to run smoothly. Here are a few ways to efficiently work with your stakeholders at every project phase.
Identify your stakeholders early
You can’t work with stakeholders if you don’t know who they are, so it’s crucial that you identify your stakeholders during the project initiating phase.
Create a stakeholder register and document each stakeholder’s role and responsibilities in the project and their needs. This document will make it easier to know who is involved in the project as it progresses. You’ll also be able to tell who needs to be informed about what and when. We’ll get into more details on how to create a stakeholder register in the next section.
Agree on the deliverables
For stakeholders to work amicably, they need to agree on the deliverables of the project. They also need to be on the same page regarding what success looks like. This helps prevent confusion, project delays, and cost overruns that could lead to failure.
Communicate with your stakeholders
Communication is one of the most crucial tools for managing stakeholders. The project manager must keep stakeholders informed, included, and inspired throughout the project’s lifecycle.
Create a communication plan outlining the communication method to use, what needs to be communicated, and to whom. It should also define the frequency of communication.
Consider using a project management tool with different communication options to ensure you’re communicating efficiently with your stakeholder. Such a tool can enable you to set notifications for each stakeholder and send relevant information whenever necessary.
Always ensure that your communication is concise and meaningful to all stakeholders.
Keep stakeholders aware of the project vision
It’s essential that all stakeholders stay up to date on the project vision throughout the process. This allows everyone involved in the project to stay focused on what’s important. Don’t forget to update them regularly on the progress towards attaining the vision.
Engage stakeholders throughout the project
It’s essential to make your stakeholders feel like they’re part of the process. This requires that you engage them in vital steps such as reviewing new requirements, providing feedback, and problem-solving.
Each stakeholder will come into the project with expectations. Sometimes these can be false or unrealistic. Clarify project goals, expectations, and other aspects to ensure everyone is familiar with the project’s direction.
Try to see things from their perspective
Every stakeholder’s role in the project is essential. As such, you should try to visualize the project from their standpoint to understand their opinions, views, and contributions to the project. Relating to their perceptions of the project enables you to better manage them and their expectations.
How to Create a Stakeholder Management Plan
A stakeholder management plan is a written outline of how you plan to manage the expectations of key stakeholders during project execution. This plan outlines vital information about your key stakeholders and summarizes the strategy you’ll use to manage each.
A stakeholder management plan helps the project manager to understand the stakeholders’ interests and expectations and offers guidance on how to manage them properly.
Stakeholder management plans help create and maintain good relationships with stakeholders. They help stakeholders understand the project deliverables, objectives, and expectations and determine if they align with their own. This helps create a shared understanding of what it will take to deliver a successful project.
By creating a stakeholder management plan, you’ll be able to analyze and better understand your stakeholders. The better you know them, the better you can anticipate their needs and proactively address any of their concerns.
Follow these four simple steps to create a plan that makes working with stakeholders easier and more beneficial.
Step #1: Create a stakeholder register
The first step in creating a stakeholder management plan is creating a register that outlines all your project stakeholders, their roles and responsibilities, needs, and expectations.
Once you’ve identified all the project stakeholders, next determine the level of influence they have over the project. Doing so will help you to understand their needs better and determine how to engage them appropriately. You can categorize your stakeholders into:
- High power – high interest: These stakeholders greatly influence the project’s success. You should manage them closely and involve them in the decision-making process.
- High power – low interest: These stakeholders strongly influence the project’s outcome, but they typically have a low interest in the project.
- Low power – high interest: These stakeholders don’t have much influence on the project but will offer their support when necessary, so keep them informed on project progress.
- Low power – low interest: These stakeholders have little to no impact on the project’s success and maintain a casual interest. These should be the lowest on your priority list.
Step #2: Develop a stakeholder communication plan
Now that you know your stakeholders and have your register in place, you need to determine how to engage with them based on their level of influence. Every stakeholder will have their own unique communication needs. Understanding these needs will ensure that you provide them with meaningful information instead of flooding them with all the project details.
A communication plan is a simple way of documenting who should be informed about the project progress, by whom, when, and how often. It also shows which communication channels to use for various types of information. For instance, channels like email or Slack threads are great for updating stakeholders on the overall project progress. But a phone/video call or meeting may be more appropriate when you need to clarify an urgent matter.
Step #3: Establish expectations
The next step is to outline the project expectations and timelines. Discuss this with the stakeholders and incorporate their feedback. This step will make managing the project and each stakeholder’s expectations much more effortless.
Step #4: Build a feedback loop to revise your plan as needed
Stakeholders’ expectations and needs can change at any time during a project. Hence, their level of influence and communication needs may also change. So keep updating your stakeholder management plan to align with stakeholder behavior change.
Establishing behavior change may not always be easy, so create a system that encourages stakeholders to share their feedback regarding the plan’s effectiveness. Use this feedback to revise your plan. You can also refer to this feedback when building future plans.
How to Manage Your Project Stakeholders with Mission Control
Effective stakeholder management doesn’t have to be complicated. Particularly with project management software in your toolbox. If you’re looking to encourage collaboration, streamline communication, and boost productivity, Mission Control has all the features you need.
One such feature is the Project Status Report – which is a PDF that can be emailed to Project Stakeholders on a weekly basis that contains relevant stakeholder information; including:
- Project Summary
- Project Detail
- Gantt Chart
- Time Log Appendix
- Issue Log Appendix
- Risk Log Appendix
- Change Request Appendix
There’s also the Customer ‘Read-Only’ Page. The ‘Read-Only’ Page allows you to provide your customers with a unique link that can be used to access a read-only, real-time view of the Project, including all the information mentioned above as well Kanban Boards and Change Requests.
Finally, the Meeting Manager is another feature you can use for collaboration and stakeholder visibility. The Meeting Manager lets you keep a track of your progress meetings. Whether that’s project specific, program specific or as a team, across number pieces of work, you’ll be able to record the meetings, who attended, what was discussed, what was resolved and what is still outstanding. Most importantly, these meeting notes can be shared with your stakeholders via PDF.
Ready to plan and execute your stakeholder management strategy all in one place? Contact us today for a demo.