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Here’s How you Identify & Manage Stakeholders

One of the most important elements to successful project delivery is, Stakeholder Management; stakeholder management is the management of all parties that have an interest or stake in a project, ranging from, the people responsible for the project; subject matter experts; key decision makers; the do-ers, to the end users.

Effective stakeholder management can either make your job really easy or really hard; the better you are at stakeholder management and managing people’s expectations, requirements, input and perceptions, the more value you will get from your dealings and interactions with your project stakeholders.

Below I highlight effective and well-established ways of identifying; analysing and managing stakeholders.

Identifying Stakeholders

If your role includes working in ambiguous project environments, with uncertainty or you are charged with delivering a project that is at its very early stages, identifying stakeholders is a high priority task. Some of the ways in which they can be identified is by first of all consulting with the individuals responsible for the sponsorship of the project, which one would assume would hold some basic or detailed knowledge around who the individuals or teams that may be affected by the project.

Although this is certainly a good starting point, it would also be value-adding to review project documentation produced to highlight the scope, benefits and value of the project, as these documents such as the ‘Project Initiation Document’ or ‘Charter’ will highlight the direction for the project, individuals/teams impacted and much more, which will give you good indication and direction on the people/teams/departments you may want to consider.

The project may be closely interlinked with other already established business processes, which may be owned by related stakeholders who would be a good source for information on interested parties.

You may want to reach out to core departments such as ‘Legal’; ‘Risk’; ‘Compliance’; ‘Customer Experience’ and other related teams if available to simply ask if they would need to have an input on the project; you may need to send them project documentation; it will typically be common knowledge however if you need to get certain teams involved.

Stakeholder Analysis

Based on the above activities, it may be that you’ve now generated a list of thirty stakeholders that need to be considered as part of your project. Sometimes stakeholder lists, depending on the size of organisation you’re working with can grow to be quite big, so it is imperative that we employ a sustainable system that (1) enables the project team to understand stakeholder input/requirements/involvement etc, as expecting the project team to remember who’s-who in their head is of course unsustainable; (2) allows us to individually mark who requires what level of updates and involvement, as they are two important items, that are independent of each other.

Interest/Influence Analysis

The first part is to understand from your list, which stakeholders wield high levels of ‘Influence’ and high levels of ‘Interest’. Lucky for us, there’s a simple matrix that’s typically employed to understand where people on your stakeholder sit as follows:

The matrix below brings to your attention four quadrants that should all be managed accordingly:

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‘High Power; Low Interest’: Little level of updates/input required, if any. The people in this group are considered to be passive, but may become more actively involved depending on interest and move in appropriate quadrant.
‘High Power; High Interest’: Should be kept informed throughout, as typically decision makers or high impact influencers.
‘Low Power; Low Interest’: Need little monitoring, as stakeholders are not interested, however may benefit from the odd periodical update.
‘Low Power; High Interest’: Should be kept informed of project activity, as may be able to influence powerful stakeholders.

With this information and your better understanding on the impact of individual stakeholders, it’s important to set up a Stakeholder Register/List and classify each stakeholder based on the results from (1) your influence/interest matrix and (2) knowledge on the level of input the stakeholders will have. I’ll talk about the register further.

RACI Classification

RACI classification is system used to understand the what involvement, responsibility and/or accountability stakeholders have for project tasks/deliverables/updates etc. The RACI system is broken down as follows:

  • Responsible (for): The “do-er” who is responsible for delivering the item in question.
  • Accountable: This is the person who “owns” the project/task/activity who the buck ends with, who has responsibility for the activity/project/task at hand. This can also be stakeholders with decision-making abilities.
  • Consult (with): This is a person who will have an input on the project, which could include a Subject Matter Expert; end-user or decision maker
  • Inform: These are individuals who you are to keep informed of project/task/activity progress, who may be impacted by the project, mainly end-users or low power; high interest stakeholders.

A stakeholder can belong to more than one classification, however, be warned, this can get a little messy if you’re filtering with Excel, which we’ll talk about later. May be easier if you’re using a software package.

Nonetheless, this approach to classification will make it easy for the project team to identify individuals who need to be updated according to the stakeholder management strategy.

Stakeholder Management

Here’s where you set the tools up to effectively manage your stakeholders. There are two key elements to effective management; they include (1) a coherent and useful Stakeholder Register and (2) Stakeholder Management Strategy.

Stakeholder Register

This is the register that will list all of your stakeholders with respective RACI classification, along with any further information or insight in to that particular stakeholder. This typically works best as an Excel spreadsheet, with filtering capabilities. The spreadsheet may have the following headings for columns:

  • Name
  • Department
  • Title
  • Role on Project
  • Expectations
  • Level of Interest
  • Level of Influence
  • Involvement (Level of)
  • RACI Classification
  • Date Added
  • Sign-off Required
  • [Deliverable #1] Signed-off (if required)
  • [Deliverable #2] Signed-off (if required)
  • [Deliverable #[…]] Signed-off (if required)

You can download a template I’ve put together for you here.

Stakeholder Strategy

The stakeholder strategy will inform the project team on the level of detail of updates; frequency; who will be responsible for updates; detail of any walk-throughs to be delivered; when they will be delivered e.g. before sign-off requests; what to do if stakeholders are non-responsive, which will happen! And any other detail around the complete process of managing stakeholders.

Naturally, keeping all of this information in a centralised location and incorporating updates, deliverable releases etc in to your project calendar would be useful, as related tasks like this will ensure the correct stakeholders receive the correct information at the right time. It is also equally as important to maintain strict professional, based on a friendly, courteous and respectful approach, ultimately resulting in sustained relationships over the long-term that goes beyond the project. Remember, you may be working with the same stakeholder in the future and it is extremely important to maintain credibility, a quality reputation and good relationships for subsequent projects.

Not forgetting soft skills as part of your stakeholder management, the book, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People‘ is certainly a must read. It drives the idea of emotional intelligence and has great techniques in how to get more value out of your relationships. Soft skills are an essential skill to a good stakeholder manager and developing these soft skills, by reading such books, or further learning, will certainly add value to your project delivery skills.

Good luck with managing your stakeholders.

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The Business Analysis Process: 2. Considering Perspectives

You’ve now completed step 1 and you’ve now got a good understanding of the situation and are ready to progress your business analysis activities. The second activity within the business analysis process is to consider the perspectives of your stakeholders.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find out who your stakeholders are. You can typically do or should have done this this by gathering details on the situation, from the first activity within the process. With this information you can then decide how to manage your stakeholders by conducting stakeholder analysis. A good way to do this is by using the power-interest matrix; the power-interest matrix will give you a framework for management.
  2. Once you have considered who your stakeholders are, it would be important to conduct the CATWOE analysis to understand what the stakeholders thoughts, feelings and values are with relation to the system/process addition/update/closure. The CATWOE analysis gives the analyst good details on the system from the users perspective; it takes in to consideration, why the stakeholder thinks the system should be implemented, what the definition of the system is, who the customer is, who plays a part within the system implementation, the owner and the environmental factors that need to be considered in which the proposed system will sit. You will conduct the CATWOE analysis with your stakeholders that you have identified as value-adding.
  3. Each perspective that you gather from a stakeholder, would be documented in a business activity model that outlines the main activities within the system, from the individual stakeholder’s perspective.
  4. Once you have gathered the above details and produced the business activity models, the next step is to determine one unified business activity model that synthesises all business activity models gathered. Now, naturally it may not be possible to create a synthesised model that incorporates every single requirement of all stakeholders. BA’s must recognise that stakeholder play a part in systems development because they have good context and understanding of user requirements; naturally people will have different opinions, however it is up to the BA to understand which activities within the documented business activity models that add most value, while meeting each stakeholders requirements. Often negotiations will need to take place, as it may not always ben feasible to deliver all requirements as outlined by the stakeholders. The way negotiation facilitation is highly personal and for that reason I won’t discuss this much.
  5. Compile all information gathered and document all of the details including the business activity models for reference, if required.

This will then take you on the next stage of analysing the needs within that one business activity model that you have now created, amalgamating most, if not all of the activities outlined in all stakeholder business activity models.

The Business Analysis Process: 3. Analysing Needs