Managing Those Pesky Stakeholders

stakeholder managementOne of my favorite sayings is “this would be easy except for those darn people involved.”  The “this” can be anything from a simple task to a complex project.  Once people are involved it gets complicated.  When managing any IT project, stakeholder management can make or break the project. Having the right stakeholders involved at the right times can mean the difference between a smooth path to the finish line and tripping all the way to the end. Three key aspects about stakeholder management will be covered in this post. They are identification, classification, and prioritization.

Identification is the first step in stakeholder management. It probably goes without saying that it is impossible to manage those that are unknown.  Identification goes well beyond the project initiator and even the project participants.  Below are some questions that can be asked when going through the identification stage.

  • Who is responsible for leading the project?
  • Who is the project sponsor?
  • What internal resources need to be informed?
  • What external resources need to be informed?
  • Are there any parts of the project that need specialized assistance?
  • Is there anyone against the project or its potential outcomes?
  • Who is part of the project team?
  • Are there any federal or state regulation agencies that need to be informed?

Try to think beyond those just directly affected.  There could be several individuals or groups indirectly affected and anyone one of those has the potential to derail the effort.  It is better to identify and not have to do anything with them than to ignore a group and have a mess to deal with later.

The next step after identification is classification. This will help with the next step of prioritization.  There are several models out there to help with this.  For simplification purposes, the RACI model will be discussed here.  In the RACI model, stakeholders are classified into 4 groups.  Each group has a different level of involvement in the project.  The four groups are defined below:

  • Responsible – This group contains individuals that are responsible for the successful execution of the project or tasks. Every project or task must have at least one individual that is in this group. Some examples of those that would be classified as responsible are project manager, project participants, or vendor participants.  Anyone who must complete a task to be successful would fit into this category.
  • Accountable – This group is accountable for the successful completion of a project or task. This person has ultimate approval authority and must sign off on any work.  Typically, there is only one accountable person per any given task or project.  Some examples would be the project sponsor, executive sponsor, or even the project manager.
  • Consulted – This group contain individuals whose opinions should be sought out. Individuals in this group may have key information or be ultimate end users to the product or service being developed.  This role is optional for any given task or project and will vary.  Some examples in this group are subject matter experts and end users.
  • Informed – This group just wants to know what is happening. In general, this group is satisfied progress updates and only at key milestone intervals.  Typically, the communication with these individuals is one-way.  This role is optional for any given task or project and will vary.  Some examples in this group are executives who are not the sponsor, general management not directly involved in the project, and others not directly involved in the project but who are affected by its outcomes.

Properly classifying stakeholders will go a long way in figuring out how to manage them.  The RACI model gives a simple yet thorough way to classify.

Once identification and classification are complete, prioritization can be handled.  This is where more details get meted out about who gets what information and in what order.  Since the first two roles are mandatory and generally have the most involvement, responsible and accountable individuals should be dealt with first when it comes to managing stakeholders. This is followed by those that are consulted and those that are informed.  Prioritization within each category can depend on a few factors.  Some of these include time of need, politics of the individuals involved, needs of the project, etc.  Each project or task will be different, and those criteria and the weighting of them will be different.

As this wraps, the hope is that stakeholder management has become a little clearer. Stakeholders can make or break a project or task and need to be properly managed.  Don’t let a little miscommunication or mismanagement of

jeremy-niedzwiecki-1A proven leader, Jeremy Niedzwiecki has over 20 years in the IT industry. As the Director of Customer Support at ABS, Jeremy works to ensure that the ABS Customer Support team continuously provides the highest levels of support possible ABS clients.