Stakeholder Management: How To Work With Stakeholders

Stakeholder Management: How To Work With Stakeholders

 

stakeholder pyramid

In previous blog posts about the stakeholder management process, we discussed how to identify stakeholders and how to engage with them using digital tools such as social media and email.

Today we’re discussing the process of working with stakeholders and how it fits into the overall pyramid of communication.

We are at the top of the pyramid, and our vision of collaboration is a two-way exchange of information that is not constrained and is an integral part of the work that needs to be done to keep the project moving forward. These stakeholders are high-interest/high-influence and must be contributors to the everyday running of your project.

– They must have access to all reports and documentation. This includes shared files on your stakeholder management system. If you use the Google G-Suite as your cloud repository, they must be able to access Google Docs, Sheets, Forms, and Calendar. If you use a tool like Sharepoint as your cloud infrastructure, they must have an email account that gives them access to your project current files and archives.
– Co-authored processes and documents. You should have processes and documents authored or co-authored by these stakeholders that take advantage of their unique value to your project. They wouldn’t be high-power stakeholders if they didn’t have that kind of value.
– They must be an integral part of the decision-making process. That means you collaborate with them directly to get their buy-in.
– They must be accessible. They must be accessible on your stakeholder management tool and recognised by name in the project communication plan in both the stakeholder management section and the project team section.

Automatically connecting high-power stakeholders makes the collaborative process much quicker and easier than relying on traditional methods. The time saved for you can be reinvested into keeping the project moving forward while the proactive and dynamic digital collaboration keep stakeholder concerns from slipping through the cracks.

Stakeholder Management Tools and Communication Archives

Let’s talk about project initiation for just a moment to put this idea of choosing stakeholder management tools into perspective. There are a few critical points to have firmly in mind before you even start looking for the perfect tool.

– Stakeholder management tools are enabling technology. They will not run the project for you.
– Planning begins well in advance of project initiation. Depending on the complexity of the project, planning should start at least a year in advance.
– Advanced project planning is a subset of smaller projects. It must be completed before the primary project is initiated. Choosing the stakeholder management tools is one of those preliminary projects. In many cases, it is the first thing you need to get done so you can have continuity throughout the entire effort.

That being said, it is important to enter into the task of choosing tools using a disciplined and analytical mindset. There are many technology options in the market, and they can boggle the mind through their slick marketing tactics to the point of influencing you into making a hasty decision. As a rule, decisions made in haste will come back to haunt you later in the project.

So, what are the important criteria that will allow you to whittle down the selection of a stakeholder management tool to a manageable and relevant choice? There are four considerations.

1. Cost vs. Functionality. What is the budget for your tool? What staff are available to manage the information needed to make the tool work? How big is the project team? How many tasks are in the primary project work breakdown structure (WBS)? And how many levels of indenture are there? The power and degree of control needed for your choice of a tool hinge on the answers to these questions. Tools such as the industry standard Microsoft Project implemented in a SharePoint cloud environment costs thousands to acquire the enterprise licenses and thousands more in overhead costs to staff the team to make it run smoothly and keep it running. A simpler PM tool like Teamweek is a visual road mapping and time planning tool that you can try for free for 30 days and then move on to a monthly price plan of £30 to £250 depending on the size of your team.

2. Capability vs. Ease of Use. The more capable the tool is, the higher the learning curve is going to be. Remember that your entire project team will have to be able to use the tool at some level. How much time do you have to give each member of your project team to learn the software? Of course, you can hire an expert for a price, but then you’re defeating the cost versus functionality paradigm.

3. Compatibility with Other Systems. Your company has already invested in an integrated technology stack of communication, accounting, and reporting software for enterprise use. Does your tool need to interface with those other apps?

4. Documentation, Startup Support, and Ongoing Technical Support. All software requires some degree of learning before you can become proficient in its use. How much support does the vendor provide for the software package? Consider the quality of the documentation you’ll receive. What setup and startup support you can expect? What are the long-term technical assistance, automatic upgrade features, and bug fix policies?

5. Security and Encryption – Do you need to protect personally identifiable information (PII), competition sensitive documents, and intellectual property? If the answer is yes, can the tool provide those services?

Always perform your due diligence on any software package you’re considering to buy. Read up on the experiences of other users and consult independent industry rating guides for tool performance. You won’t be sorry you did your homework.
Secure File Sharing

You must be aware of all laws and regulations concerning the protection of personally identifiable information (PII), copyright infringement, and protection of intellectual property. Failure to protect PII and violation of copyright infringement laws carry penalties (financial and corporate reputation), while failure to protect intellectual property (IP) can hurt the profitability of your company and result in litigation.

The important consideration on your part as concerns access to the data repositories and what communication tools and methods you use to transmit sensitive data. First, let’s identify the laws governing such activity in the United Kingdom.

1. The UK legislation implementing the EU Data Protection Directive was the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), s.1(1) of which provides, in words that differ from the Directive’s definition:
a. ‘”personal data” means data which relate to a living individual who can be identified–
i. (a) from those data, or
ii. (b) from those data and other information which is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the data controller,
b. And includes any expression of opinion about the individual and any indication of the intentions of the data controller or any other person in respect of the individual.
2. The UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Digital Economy Act 2010 apply to and may be breached by file sharing activity.
a. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 aims to protect the intellectual property rights of the creator or copyright holder. File sharing violates this act when the copyright owner has not given permission for its material to be shared.
b. The Digital Economy Act changed the penalties related to copyright infringement. The legislation is concerned more directly with copyright on the Internet than previous legislation that was more concerned with commercial abuse of copyright.

The actions you should take:

1. Implement a tiered hierarchy. Identify the level of access each project team member has to the document repository and archives. Sensitive documents must be kept separate from routine, unclassified documents and access control imposed.
2. Double check. Two-factor authentication of users should be employed as a means to prevent hacking into the project database.
3. Always encrypt. The transfer of sensitive files and any documents that could have elements of PII in the document must be encrypted before transmission using tools such as Virtual Private Network (VPN) tools.

The Use of Wikis

So, what are Wikis? In short, they are constructive, flexible websites designed for collaboration in which multiple users can create, edit, delete, and alter information posted to the site. In essence, they are your private Wikipedia site for your project. Wikipedia takes a more disciplined and structured approach to the management and oversight of the information but, wikis are a form, fit and function replica of Wikipedia on a much smaller scale.

What is the value to you? It’s an open-source, unconstrained two-way communication and collaboration tool that compliments your more restricted repository and database. Some challenges come with a wiki. The information on the site is not protected. Anyone can access and add, alter or delete information. Thus, the relevancy of the data comes into question regarding whether it’s the most recent version or not. The project manager would have to monitor activity on the site daily. It would require a lot of self-discipline from every user to keep it valid and useful.

Some of the useful features of a wiki include:

● Ability to co-author documents in an open, intuitive environment
● Ability to build project documents such as risk registers given that they are dynamic in nature and require real-time updates. The wiki would be open for stakeholder use providing an outside perspective on risk beyond your project team. It solves the age-old problem of not being able to see the forest for the trees.

Final Thoughts

Digital channels bring great power to collaboration with stakeholders, and at a minimal cost. Savvy public sector organisations choose cloud collaboration software that offers all the tools and features mentioned above, plus many others. We’ll be looking at this in more detail in a future post.

The primary benefit of using digital channels in accomplishing collaboration is that it makes work simpler and faster. Instead of trying to get busy professionals around the same table — a job that’s akin to herding cats — stakeholders can get online to collaborate when it suits them best, giving pace and spontaneity to their work.

 

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Mark Rutter

Director at Tractivity
After graduating from Staffordshire University I joined Tractivity as a Junior Developer and can say I have never looked back since. From Developer to Director, my passion for Tractivity continues to grow as I uncover new ways to improve and grow our business.

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