The rate that change has occurred in the last half a century is astounding. From the household names we interact with, to the way we interact with our friends, our colleagues, our clients. Digital stakeholder enagement is no different!
Unbelievably it was only at the turn of this century that there was no Facebook, no Youtube, no Spotify. Ten years before that, we were still writing letters, watching VHS, and listening to cassettes.
The world is quickly becoming a vastly digital and connected place and the way that we do things is changing along with it.
Unfortunately, businesses don’t keep up with the way stakeholders are interacting digitally. Traditional stakeholder management relied heavily on mass media techniques that either targeted large groups of stakeholders as a whole or targeted even a larger group indiscriminately whether or not they’re stakeholders. This includes informing stakeholders through printed newsletters, mass mailings, print advertising, and gathering data through written surveys.
Whilst these channels did work, they were costly, untimely and, as they communicate indirectly with stakeholders, they do little to form the necessary relationships essential for cohesive stakeholder management.
The introduction of digital channels like websites and email did more for the timeliness of the information disseminated but still didn’t engage stakeholders on a personal level. Stakeholders continue to receive inadequate or irrelevant information and project managers are still confronted with ill-informed stakeholders.
Over the last decade, advances in digital business communications have laid the groundworks for a redefinition and broadening of stakeholder management. This new approach has brought about a whole raft of benefits for both the stakeholders and the management process itself. It’s no longer necessary for project managers to spend their time organising face-to-face briefings or telephone calls only for them to be cancelled or continually rescheduled.
This merging of digital channels and stakeholder management has long been underway. It hasn’t just meant that it’s easier to manage stakeholder, but that stakeholder management can be done on a larger scale, more efficiently, and more projects can reap the benefits.
A more digital approach reduces production costs. By evolving organisation and automating labor-intensive tasks, everything can be kept on track and more time can be freed up to do direct work on the project.
Using digital tools and channels allows the management of your primary stakeholder groups to be done at an individual level. This means that stakeholder groups’ expectations can be met at a degree of understanding that ensures the strengthening of your relationship. As stakeholders are engaged with on a personal level in a virtual environment, there’s becomes less of a need to spend money on train tickets to meet them face-to-face.
A digital approach means opening up the power of cross-channel and multi-channel marketing for the project manager. Marketing tools allow a customer to be tracked in the digital world and can predict their digital-whereabouts at any given time. When this approach is applied to stakeholders, information can be delivered that is more personalised, concise and more likely to be consumed. Certain stakeholders won’t read emails, preferring less formal outlets like Social Media. Others will prefer a more direct business means like Slack or SMS to deliver the news.
Meeting personal preferences of your stakeholders not only means that your updates are being consumed by the stakeholder more fervently, but a more beneficial relationship can be developed. messages are read quicker, responded to quicker, and acted upon quicker.
Approaching the engagement process transparently entices stakeholders to become engaged. The more stakeholders are aware of the engagement process, the more you’ll find that they’re already on the lookout for information and more eager to engage with the process.
It’s essential that you’re consistent in the way that you engage each stakeholder and consistent in the quality of the information you provide them. If a stakeholder is interested in the cost of a project, they’ll want to receive cost information to date as well as potential cost drivers. Sending them assessments of shortfalls won’t be relevant even if it will eventually have an impact on the schedule and cost of a project. That stakeholder will want to know how the budget has been affected and will want to know that and just that.
The benefit of using digital tools and channels is that all these conversations are audible automatically, and the project manager can easily access the audit trail if there is ever a need to present the information during a project restructuring or public enquiry.
The modern stakeholder uses digital tools and channels to receive the information they want. This means that they want the information personalised to their taste and delivered at a time and place that they choose.
You run the risk of damaging the progress of the project if you lose sight of the importance of building positive and trusting relationships with your stakeholders. A sophisticated approach to using digital tools and channels for your stakeholder management not only makes the engagement process smoother and easier, it promotes the kind of engagements that are necessary for making a project worthwhile.
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