If you’re a project manager, or if your role requires project management, it’s important to understand how to engage critical stakeholders successfully. Identifying and engaging essential stakeholders and interested parties, including external, internal, senior and influential stakeholders, will ensure the best possible outcome for a project.
What is a Stakeholder?
A project stakeholder is an individual, department, organisation or group that may be affected by the results of a project or influence the outcome of the project.
There are three main categories or levels of stakeholder interest or involvement.
- The first are stakeholders who are actively involved in the project.
- The second are those whose interests are affected by work performed or the finished result of the project.
- The third are individuals, departments, organisations or groups that have a direct influence over the project or project outcomes.
Why Engaging Stakeholders Is Important to Project Success
A project’s success is often reliant on stakeholder expertise to impart knowledge that helps achieve project outcomes.
When stakeholder management is useful not only does it engage a wide range of stakeholders but it’s also instrumental in identifying and reducing risks that may hinder a project.
Finally, effective stakeholder management and engagement will exponentially increase a project’s success.
Committees and Working Groups
Setting up a stakeholder engagement and liaison committee is helpful to the engagement of external stakeholders and large groups. This committee will also be involved in distributing minutes to other vital stakeholders within an organisation. A committee or working group will enable active collaboration with stakeholders of varying importance and will improve communication overall.
Focus Groups and Consultation Forums
Important stakeholder groups are best engaged through focus groups or consultation forums. A focus group is crucial to discover quality, rather than quantitive, data that will be instrumental in a project’s success. A focus group also ensures critical stakeholders feel and stay involved in essential decision-making processes that will influence the project ’s outcome.
Inviting experts to speak about and explain more complex information about a project is useful to engage and educate stakeholders and other interested parties, especially members of the public or groups. When you properly advertise an expert ‘speaker’, you can reach large numbers of people and facilitate face to face feedback.
Telephone and Email
Talking on the phone is beneficial to inform, educate or give feedback to key stakeholders on the project. A mailing list can also be set up to send via email to stakeholders to circulate information on project progress.
For priority, key and influential stakeholders, or those who need particular attention, individual briefings in the form of formal or informal meetings are essential to review project goals and outcomes. Informal meetings can also be set up to engage active parties and stakeholders.
Media – Social, Website, Radio and TV
Posting project updates and information on a website, either on the internet or a company’s intranet and via social media is an ideal way to provide fast and regular communication with stakeholders. Media releases are an essential way to report on the achievement of significant project milestones. Depending on the budget of engagement activities, it may be advantageous to run radio, television and online advertising campaigns to target large groups of stakeholders such as the public.
Surveys & Interviews
When stakeholder engagement is effective it encompasses a wide range of project stakeholders. When a stakeholder group is large, it is useful to gather information and opinions on a project via a well-structured survey or interview. There are many ways to deliver a stakeholder engagement survey, including the web, mail or in person.
Newsletters, Posters, Print Media
Stakeholder engagement can be achieved by making use of marketing and advertising collateral that can be distributed to inform stakeholders on project progress. This engagement strategy can be via newsletters, posters or advertisements in print media such as newspapers, magazines, or on noticeboards. This stakeholder engagement tactic can provide the necessary visual representation of a project’s progress in public venues.
Where community stakeholders are an essential part of stakeholder engagement, public meetings and forums are useful to educate and inform large groups on project progress, future goals and expected outcomes.
Outcomes of Successful Stakeholder Engagement
When stakeholder engagement is effective, project managers can expect the following outcomes:
Improved relationships with stakeholders
- Enhanced perception of the project
- Improved communication channels
- Agreement on purpose and direction of a project
- Identification of issues, conflicts and benefits of the project
- Generation of new ideas
No one stakeholder engagement strategy is useful for all stakeholder groups, and each has its pros and cons. The most helpful approach may be to combine many strategies, ensuring each is appropriate to the interests and influence of the individual stakeholder or group.
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