Take Care of People Who Make the Project Possible – Stakeholders

stakeholder managementAs we understand from project management basics section, a stakeholder is defined as an individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project”.

Thus stakeholder is anyone – customer, sponsor, team member, CEO, end user, neighbor – basically anyone who can impact the project or whose interests are positively or negatively impacted by the project.

Per the definition, a stakeholder can be someone that may just think that they are affected by your project. So, in real life managing stakeholders is not an easy job for the project manager, and it starts with identifying them!

This knowledge domain stresses on continuous communication with stakeholders to understand their concerns, interests, and issues, and managing any conflicts that may arise. Managing stakeholders, making them happy (or at least not mad) is, as many project managers concur, one of the most important part of their job. After all, the project exists for and because of stakeholders!

How does this pan out for Agile projects?

Much better than traditional projects, actually.

Agile project management methodologies include a high degree of stakeholder involvement – at least some of the critical stakeholders. Customer is involved almost on a daily basis in defining scope, clarifying product related queries, early testing and so on.

If you are an agile scrum master, and preparing for PMP exam – you have much to be happy about. You may be nodding your head in agreement while studying man of the processes in Stakeholder management knowledge area.

After all, you could be already doing much of that work.

Identifying People Who Hold Stakes in Your Project

As we know the whole existence of the project is due to a stakeholder need. That of your Customer (which is driven by their customer). Who better than them to go and identify people impacting or getting impacted by the project? We will see how do we do that in the next post.

In the Identify Stakeholders process we not only identify all those people that have a stake in the project, we also understand as much as possible about them.  Their interests, involvement in the project, amount of influence, interdependencies among them so on and so forth.

Doing this well actually makes project manager’s life much easier. Once you know who can do what, it is easy to give them what they want and ensure they help the project succeed.

You didn’t think just because someone is a stakeholder in a project they will want the project to succeed. Did you?

Even if someone does not want the project to be successful, they are stakeholders in the project.

Take the example of a government project to construct a dam across the river.

Sure they have a noble reason for building the dam. But what about those farmers who lose their land, the only source of their livelihood, if the dam comes up? Damn. They will do all in their might to ensure that the project does not succeed. And this makes them very important stakeholders.

Even the people in the neighboring State may become stakeholders in the project. Why? The river flows into that State and people there may not be happy at receiving less water now.

The project manager of this project should identify such stakeholders, see how the project impacts their interest and identify strategies she can put in place to win their support.

Planning How to Manage these Stakeholders

Managing stakeholders calls for strategies to be employed to deal with different types of stakeholders. Both positive and negative stakeholders will need different strategies. Plan Stakeholder Management process is about putting these strategies together to continuously engage stakeholders. And then understand their needs to make sure they do not have a reason to complain.

Managing Needs of Stakeholders

This project management activity is about continuously working with stakeholders addressing their concerns and communicating right amount of information, using right communication mechanism, at the right time.

Making Sure Stakeholders are Happy Throughout the Project

This project management activity is part of Monitoring and Controlling process group. This is all about watching closely whether stakeholders are getting right information, whether the relationships are managed well, and adjusting stakeholder management strategies as per changing scenarios.

Stakeholder Management, rightly has been given its own knowledge area when 5th version of PMBOK was released. From an examination study point there may not be much changed but for project managers who refer to PMBOK to manage projects (the practitioners) this segregation is going to be beneficial.

Identify stakeholders is the only second process that is executed before any of the planning processes (Develop project charter being the other). And it would not be an exaggeration to say that if this process is not done properly, it can create chaos on the project (closely related to risks!).

Let us see how to carefully identify all the stakeholders on your project. I explain how it can avoid chaotic situation on the project, with an example in this post.

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