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Stakeholder management

Claude Palmarini
Stakeholder management

Stakeholder management is essential to successful project management: whether internal or external, stakeholders have a de facto influence on the project and its outcome. This means that the project leader and his team must be able to identify them, analyze them, and plan the strategy to ensure their commitment. It's a skill as essential as it is delicate, and one that will have an impact on the trajectory of the project.

How do you identify stakeholders in project management?

The first step is to identify all relevant stakeholders, and document their potential impact on or through the project. This may include (but is not limited to) sponsors, project teams, customers, suppliers, unions or government authorities. A detailed mapping, without prejudging their degree of influence at this stage, is recommended to ensure an understanding of the project ecosystem.

There are several ways to get a clear idea, and the more you involve your team, the more convincing the results will be:

  • Brainstorming;
  • Project documents, which may include more or less explicit information on potential stakeholders;
  • Interviews and surveys with identified project players.

After identification comes analysis.

How to analyze stakeholders

Stakeholder analysis enables us to assess their power, influence and interest in the project. Tools such as the interest matrix or the onion diagram are used to classify stakeholders and define the level of effort and communication to be devoted to them.

They can also be used to draw up a communications strategy accordingly.

Example of an interest matrix :

Example of an onion (or layered structure):

Layered structure

You can also carry out a SWOT analysis, listing the strengths,weaknesses,opportunities andthreats of each stakeholder (or stakeholder group).

As you can see, different types of stakeholder require different management plans.

The stakeholder management plan

Once stakeholders have been identified and analyzed, engagement strategies can be drawn up.

This may seem straightforward, but there are certain subtleties to be taken into account with the simplified interest matrix approach mentioned above: although group B has the greatest impact, group A, because of its members' position of power, must not be neglected. It provides support as long as its expectations are met. Otherwise, it may prove hostile to the project.

The stakeholder management plan should include :

  • Guidelines for each player, according to their roles and responsibilities;
  • Requirements and expectations, even implicit needs;
  • Means and frequency of communication;
  • A list of concrete actions to be taken;
  • A timetable for follow-up and revision, to ensure that the plan adapts to changes.

A good management plan enables :

  • Harmonious relations with stakeholders;
  • Reduced risks;
  • More effective decision-making;
  • Less conflict.

Let's be clear: a good management plan with good communications doesn't mean that everyone is satisfied, but rather that relationships of trust are established, based among other things on transparency and accessibility.

All that remains now is to transform the management plan into a tool for engagement.

Stakeholder engagement

Active stakeholder engagement, guided by the management plan, is essential. It requires careful execution of engagement strategies, ongoing monitoring to identify and resolve potential problems, and adaptation of approaches in line with changing needs and expectations. The effectiveness of the engagement strategy needs to be evaluated throughout the project, enabling the necessary adjustments to be made to improve collaboration and stakeholder support.

The engagement strategy has variable geometry, again depending on the quadrant of the matrix mentioned above. Those in Group C (low interest and low power) may be content with an informative e-mail, while those in Group B (high interest and high power) may well merit face-to-face meetings with detailed explanations.

The aim is to secure the continued support of stakeholders.

As such, the project leader must also develop conflict management skills.

Conflict management among stakeholders

Conflicts between stakeholders can arise from a number of sources:

  • Differing objectives ;
  • Lack of resources (financial, material and human) can create tensions;
  • Poor communication leading to misunderstandings or unrealistic expectations;
  • A change in priorities for one of the stakeholders that conflicts with the others or with the project plan;
  • External factors, such as legislative or economic changes, can also significantly alter the dynamics between stakeholders.

Recognizing and understanding potential sources of conflict enables the development of a proactive strategy for managing them.

Towards harmonious stakeholder management

Stakeholder management is a key component of project success, requiring a systematic and proactive approach. It contributes to building trusting relationships, reducing risks and improving project results. Project leaders must adopt effective communication practices, be receptive to stakeholder feedback, and be ready to adjust their engagement strategies to meet changing project dynamics.

To find out more :

Project management: identifying and managing stakeholders

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