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4 min read

Stakeholders Stand Between Project Success And Failure

If you're a project manager, you’ll be keen to avoid failure, and one potential pitfall is within stakeholder engagement and stakeholder management.

Fail to engage stakeholders or don’t appease resistors to change and you can have a real problem on your hands.

Who are the stakeholders in a project?

Freeman defines a stakeholder as “a group or an individual who can affect or be affected by the outcomes of a project…or perceive this to be the case.”

Every project you will take on will have a direct or indirect impact on people and groups. These are your project stakeholders.

They range from internal stakeholders, typically the team members involved in the project's idea and execution, managers, executives and sponsors, to external stakeholders, such as customers, users,  local communities, and anyone that will be affected by the project's execution and its outcomes. 

The fact is, anyone can be a stakeholder, and critically, anyone can be a resistor to change.

The importance of engaged stakeholders in project management

Without understanding who your project stakeholders are, their interests, concerns and issues regarding the project, you risk being told that you cannot implement any changes without addressing the issues first.

Moreover, stakeholders can be difficult and show resistance against your project and its outcomes. Failing to identify and engage with them can lead to consequences.

The result? Delayed projects, overspending, under-confidence in the plan and potential repercussions for not meeting the correct compliance.

This is why stakeholder engagement is so crucial. This is the process of listening and entering into a dialogue with stakeholders, whilst, of course, trying to influence them.

There is a major connection between successful projects and successful stakeholder engagement.

If your project has resistors, part of your engagement is to try and influence opinion in a way that is factual but also convincing regarding the benefits of the project.

How to influence stakeholder opinion to support project success

  • Reiterate the needs of the project to those you need support from

This could be winning their support by showing the financial, security or other benefits that the project could help them attain. Restate the project needs in alignment with their own needs.

  • Bring data to bear 

Bringing data to any meeting can help showcase the benefits of the project. Demonstrable statistics can also help show the benefits of the project.

  • Express the project in emotional terms

Although this sounds counter-intuitive to showcasing data, every piece of action has to be ‘felt’ as the right direction to take.

Decisions are made by humans, so try and bring the benefits and opportunities back to an emotional level. If the stakeholders can feel the benefits, this will provide real value.

  • Be clear on time frames 

Someone who feels they have been given a reasonable warning to change will be much more receptive than someone who feels the rug has been swept up from under them.

It is critical that any stakeholder needs to understand how and when they need to give support and when they will start to see changes. This will help them.

  • Report regularly 

It is key to tell stakeholders where you are on your journey, regularly and often.

This feedback loop helps them to see that the project is moving forward and making progress If there are warning signs that things are not going to plan, open up.

This might help to gain support and new ideas.

  • Acknowledge their contribution 

It is also a great strategy that during each milestone or moment, you share this with your stakeholders.

Give them credit and acknowledge the success of the programme or project. Even resistors can switch and become a champion of your project, so sharing good news is key.

Manage your project stakeholders effectively

When it comes to managing stakeholder engagement, you need to ensure that your processes don’t lead to failure.

Using spreadsheets increases the risk of data errors, duplication and mislaying information.

Because spreadsheets lack controls, it is very easy for stakeholders’ views and feedback to be altered, even deleted permanently. This sort of activity could easily go undetected and creates a window for fraudulent behaviour both from within the business and from outside forces.

On top of that, as you undertake more stakeholder engagement all the initial requirements, perceptions and attitudes will change. Spreadsheets, on the other hand, are very one-dimensional and rigid. 

As spreadsheets become more complex to keep up with changing demands, they, in turn, become harder to manage, and more likely to break down. Time and money are wasted trying to keep the process afloat.

The most successful businesses use stakeholder management software

Tractivity is an all-in-one management system for Stakeholder Communication, Engagement and Reporting.

It is extensively used by a whole range of organisations in the Energy, Utilities, Transport and NHS sectors to manage and engage their project stakeholders

Tractivity organises stakeholders, communication and reporting together for one central source for stakeholder management.

Its reports gather information from the entire project and summarise key activities whenever you need it. Tractivity also includes communication facilities such as newsletters, surveys and event management tools.

Together, the right tactics and the right processes can help overcome the risk of project failure. Discover how Tractivity can support your project's success.

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