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Love them or loath them, stakeholders can make or break a project if you don’t engage with them. So we’ve set out some questions you should ask about every stakeholder to help you do just that. If you’re a project manager who wants to fully understand stakeholder engagement, PRINCE2 and MSP will tell you all you need to know.

  1. What is a stakeholder? First things first, a stakeholder is anyone or any organisation that can affect or be affected by a project in any way. And by anyone, we do mean anyone! They could be customers, suppliers, shareholders, politicians, local pressure groups, the list is almost endless.
  2. What is stakeholder engagement? No, it’s not the kind of commitment where you’ll end up walking down the aisle, but it could be as important. For this is where you manage stakeholder individuals and organisations, identifying them, communicating with them and so on. Although the process is normally undertaken at programme level, all projects must have a degree of stakeholder engagement, especially where a project is not part of a programme.
  3. Who needs stakeholders? You do and for better or worse you’ve got them whether you like it or not! Stakeholders are pretty much an inevitable part of every project. Think about it: as we’ve already said there will be those affected and those who will affect your project, as a result there will always be someone for and someone against you; and you can bet your bottom dollar that they won’t be slow to act accordingly in order to help or hinder your plans.
  4. Who are your stakeholders? Blind dates are fun but not too funny in project management. The first step in stakeholder engagement is to identify who your stakeholders are to enable you to target messages. Begin by brainstorming; remember to be systematic, to include not only current but also potential stakeholders and to include stakeholders both inside and outside your company; this is one time when more is definitely more!
  5. What are they like? Just like family, you can’t always choose your stakeholders. It pays, therefore, to know who you’re dealing with. Profile them by using everything from general research to interviewing. You should end up with an idea of, amongst other things, their attitudes, interests, power and importance.
  6. What makes them tick? The secret to any successful relationship is to understand the other person. So dig into stakeholders’ motivations, their financial interests, their views about whether the project is a benefit or a threat, their influences and so forth. You never know what you might uncover. A supposedly weak stakeholder, for example, may actually wield considerable power because of his or her influence over others. Whatever you discover, you’ll need to manage it.
  7. What strategy should you use to engage with them? There are many elements to this but, as in every good relationship, communication is critical. Work out what your key messages are, who should send them, who should receive them, when and how they should get them, and in what form. Make sure you tailor communication to fit the situation and the stakeholder. For although some stakeholders are best dealt with on a face-to-face basis, others respond better to email, social media, or any of a myriad of other ways. Whichever you choose, don’t forget that engagement is a two-way process.
  8. When is a good time? Timing is everything in a relationship. So plan when and how often you need to engage with your stakeholders. While it’s a good idea to keep things consistent and regular, it can be helpful to build in informality as well so more friendly and trusting relationships develop.
  9. Are we good? From time to time we all take stock of our relationships and it’s no different here. You can measure the effectiveness of your engagements in a number of ways. You could, for instance, check that stakeholders are getting the information that they require, that they feel as involved as they need or want to be and that the engagement is making a difference. Find out too what could improve the engagement and what adjustments have to be made. Remember, it’s always good to talk!

Useful Links:

  • For a complete picture of PRINCE2 and what it can do, head to the OGC (Office of Government Commerce).
  • The PRINCE2 Downloads page has a wealth of information for every project manager.
  • If you want to know the main reasons for project failure then the OGC has some answers.
  • ILX Group deliver PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner e-learning, classroom and blended learning to suit every situation.
  • The APMG provides a slew of useful information about PRINCE2 accredited training options if you’re not yet PRINCE2 certified.
  • The PRINCE2 e-learning experience may be the perfect option for those with an eye for cost-effective, rich and collaborative training that includes a blog, a forum and social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • If your company wants to implement PRINCE2 training ILX Connect would be a great option as it will help them through the process.
  • ILX Consulting takes the concept of support to the next level. From maturity assessments and organisational health-checks, through ITIL, MSP and PRINCE2 implementation, to programme and project performance management, it has a proven record of delivering tangible improvements in capability, productivity and customer satisfaction to a wide range of businesses and organisations.