Stakeholder management

Definition

Stakeholder management is the systematic identification, analysis, planning and implementation of actions designed to engage with stakeholders.

General

Stakeholders are individuals or groups with an interest in the project, programme or portfolio because they are involved in the work or affected by the outcomes.

Most projects, programmes and portfolios will have a variety of stakeholders with different, and sometimes competing, interests. These individuals and groups can have significant influence over the eventual success or failure of the work.

Stakeholder management is a set of techniques that harnesses the positive influences and minimises the effect of the negative influences. It comprises four main steps:

  • identify stakeholders;
  • assess their interest and influence;
  • develop communication management plans;
  • engage and influence stakeholders.

Identifying stakeholders will be done using research, interviews, brainstorming, checklists, lessons learned and so on. The stakeholders and their areas of interest are usually shown in a table known as a stakeholder map. Typical types of stakeholders will include:

  • individuals and groups performing the work;
  • individuals and groups affected by the work;
  • owners, shareholders and customers;
  • statutory and regulatory bodies.

Each stakeholder will then be classified according to potential impact. This is usually shown in a matrix that estimates interest and influence on a simple scale such as low/medium/high. Those with an ability to directly affect the outputs or benefits are sometimes referred to as key stakeholders.

Questions to consider when assessing stakeholders are:

  • How will they be affected by the work?
  • Will they be openly supportive, negative or ambivalent?
  • What are their expectations and how can these be managed?
  • Who and/or what influences the stakeholder’s view of the project?
  • Who would be the best person to engage with the stakeholder?

This analysis is used to develop a communication management plan. Appropriate strategies and actions are then defined to engage with stakeholders in different parts of the matrix.

Communications with stakeholders who have high levels of interest and influence will be managed differently from those with stakeholders of low interest and influence. Similarly, communications with stakeholders who are inherently positive about the work will be different from those with stakeholders who are negative.

P3 managers must identify who should engage with each stakeholder. In many cases the P3 manager will take on the task, but it is also useful to call upon peers, senior managers or others who may be better placed.

As a dynamic document, the communication management plan must link to other plans such as the risk management plan and key milestones within the schedule.

Stakeholder management becomes more complex when stakeholders’ views, roles or allegiances, etc. change throughout the life cycle. For that reason, the stakeholder management steps must be repeated throughout the life cycle.

Project

Stakeholder management for a project is the responsibility of the project manager. On larger projects or where the project is part of a programme, there may be assistance from a support function.

Stakeholder management is a vital activity, even on the smallest of projects. Project managers, using simple procedures and investing a modest effort, can make a big difference to the eventual success of the project simply by understanding the stakeholders and what they want.

Programme

Within a programme, stakeholder maps should be created at project and programme level and are the responsibility of the project managers and programme manager respectively.

Stakeholders only appear on maps where they have an interest. So, those with an interest in a project should be on the project-level map. Those with an interest in multiple projects, or the business-as-usual being affected by the projects, should appear on the programme-level map. Where stakeholders have an interest in multiple projects, the programme-level map must differentiate between their interest and influence in each.

This approach ensures that stakeholders appear in only one communication management plan and avoids the danger of mixed messages.

The programme support function will maintain the stakeholder documentation and may include a communications officer. It will also liaise, as appropriate, with either corporate communications or a portfolio support function, where one exists.

Portfolio

The portfolio management team needs to be satisfied that appropriate approaches to stakeholder management are being taken by all projects, programmes and areas of business-as-usual within the portfolio. They must also own and monitor a portfolio-wide stakeholder management plan.

This needs to cover such aspects as:

  • the overall stakeholder management policy, including key stakeholder groups and interfaces;
  • how the stakeholder management policy will be monitored;
  • dealing with perceived weaknesses in stakeholder management at project and programme level;
  • gathering and publicising executive support for the portfolio processes and portfolio content.

Stakeholder management is one of the most challenging activities within portfolio management. The overall portfolio of change can be undermined if there are significant areas of an organisation with poor stakeholder commitment.

The portfolio management team is responsible for the quality of local project and programme stakeholder management. Evidence on how well plans are being executed may be reflected in the nature of issues being escalated and risks being reported.

The portfolio support function maintains the stakeholder documentation and may include a communications officer. It will provide guidance to projects and programmes on stakeholder management and will audit stakeholder management throughout the portfolio. It is important that the support function liaises with organisational communications.

Additional reading:

Join APM

Sign up to the APM Newsletter.