Stakeholders management


by Cezar Babeș 

The Importance of Stakeholders  The official definition of a stakeholder is any person, group, or organization that can influence, is influenced by, or believes it is influenced by a decision, activity, or outcome of the project. Thus, the number of stakeholders in a project can be vast. PMBoK provides some useful techniques for managing this variable. From my experience, proper stakeholder management can make the difference between a smoothly progressing project and one that nobody wants to be part of.  Examples of Stakeholders, Depending on the Project Domain: 
  • Construction: Local authorities, communities, investors, architects, contractors. 
  • IT: End-users, development team, IT department, business partners, regulators. 
  • Education: Students, faculty, parents, community partners, government. 
  • Public Health: Patients, health professionals, NGOs, health authorities, pharmaceutical companies. 
How Do We Identify Stakeholders?  There are various ways to identify stakeholders: 
  • Analyzing Existing Documents: If available, the project charter, contracts, and business plans may contain details about stakeholders. 
  • Brainstorming: Structured discussion sessions with team members (who are also stakeholders) help identify other stakeholders. 
  • Consulting Experts: Those with relevant experience in the field or on similar projects may suggest other stakeholders. 
  • Evaluating Previous Projects: Stakeholders involved in previous projects may have an interest or role in other similar projects. 
  • Interviews: Discussions with current stakeholders or various members of the organization can reveal who might have interests related to the project. 
Stakeholder Analysis  Once identified, stakeholders need to be analyzed. This helps us understand their influence, interest, and expectations regarding the project. The most well-known—and widely used—method for stakeholder analysis is using the power/interest matrix. This matrix organizes stakeholders based on their power of influence and interest in the project. These two dimensions facilitate prioritization and efficient direction of efforts. It also helps us use the appropriate type of communication with each group: 
  • Low power and interest stakeholders: Low effort; keep them informed with short and to-the-point messages. 
  • High interest but low power stakeholders: Medium effort; they can positively influence public perception and team morale as they represent the “gallery” of the project team. It is essential to maintain fluid communication with them and involve them as much as resources allow. 
  • High power but low interest stakeholders: High effort; these pose a threat to the project. Communication needs to be strategized to keep them satisfied and not give them reasons to use their power against the project. 
  • High power and interest stakeholders: High effort; these are the pillars and champions of the project. It is necessary to collaborate closely with them. 
Another important aspect of stakeholder management is continuous monitoring of their level of awareness, needs, and classification. This helps avoid situations where a stakeholder with low interest and influence unknowingly transforms into one with low interest and high influence.  Collaborating with Stakeholders  To collaborate efficiently with stakeholders, we need an adapted collaboration plan based on influence and interest. This plan could include: 
  • Defining Collaboration Objectives: Clarifying expectations from each stakeholder, whether it is informing, consulting, or active collaboration. 
  • Communication Methods: Selecting appropriate communication channels, from face-to-face meetings for those with high influence to emails or newsletters for those with low influence. 
  • Interaction Schedule: Establishing optimal times for communication, adapting frequency throughout the project. 
  • Feedback Loops: Implementing and responding to feedback mechanisms to refine the collaboration strategy. 
  • Monitoring and Adjustment: Periodically evaluating and adapting the collaboration plan based on feedback and changes in project dynamics. 
Typical Situations and Their Resolution  In general, many projects face similar issues when it comes to collaborating with stakeholders. Below are some examples and potential solutions: 
  • Lack of Engagement: Interactive information sessions and subsequent individual conversations can increase stakeholder engagement. 
  • Conflicts of Interest Among Stakeholders: Mediation and negotiation of project issues are necessary to resolve conflicts. Changes resulting from this process must be adequately recorded. The project manager must always remain neutral and facilitate the process. 
  • Skepticism Towards Results: A demonstration of partial project results (quick wins) or outcomes from other similar projects can provide concrete evidence of benefits, reducing skepticism. 
  • Change in Stakeholders: People change in projects, even significant ones, such as sponsors. It is important for project managers to ensure that knowledge transfer has occurred to ensure a smooth change, maintaining alignment of project objectives with new stakeholders. 
Stakeholder management, though considered an art as complex as it is important for project management, tends to evolve in efficiency with the experience of each project manager.