Stakeholder profiling and management have become an inseparable part of numerous corporate projects as it plays an essential role in their overall influence and success. It directs an organisation towards engaging with the right people in the most influential manner. Stakeholder management is a discipline that successful managers and corporate leaders use to win support for their dream projects and give them a meaningful direction. It is a critical managerial skill that every promising project manager must acquire if they want to live up to their full potential.
Stakeholder analysis or profiling is a technique or corporate tool which assists in identifying crucial people who organisation seeks support from. The role of stakeholder management is to build the support organisation needs to succeed. To understand the project network and its possible interaction, stakeholder analysis is very much required.
These are the main advantages stakeholder management can provide for a successful project execution:
- A project manager can analyse opinions and views presented by the most influential stakeholders to shape up project direction. It also increases the probability of stakeholders supporting project activities and improves overall project quality.
- Active support from the main stakeholders brings potential resources along with it. It enhances the chances of a successful project execution.
- Frequent communication with key stakeholders in early stages of a project ensures that they have fully understood project goals and possible implications. That way, they can be ready to actively support and contribute whenever required.
- It enables managers to anticipate reactions from people concerning the current project, and that way, they can factor that in project planning to win support from stakeholders as well as final users.
The usual approach to Stakeholder Management involves focusing on the target audience, first for the project, then for the resources. Prosperity and market success of an organisation greatly depend on its potential to create values, satisfaction, or wealth for primary stakeholder groups. Various stakeholder theories imply that organisations must take broader responsibilities towards the society and all their stakeholders at large. Such responsibilities go beyond financial performance. The relationship between an organisation and valued stakeholders is mutually beneficial as they both can work in coordination towards each other’s prosperity.
The Stakeholder Analysis Tool
Stage One: Stakeholders Identification
The first stage consists of identifying the stakeholders and their significance for the project outcomes. While creating a project roadmap, it becomes imperative to understand various roles that stakeholders might play in the course of the project. Emphasis must be put on roles of stakeholders instead of their titles and positions because different people have different influence and power. Moreover, the level of relationships varies between team members. It is important to remember that people form networks, not organisations.
Think who could significantly impact your project. Anyone could be a stakeholder – it is determined by the project niche and relevant people associated with that niche. For example, your stakeholders could be your suppliers, senior executives, your coworkers, but also your manager, colleagues or even your family.
Stage Two: Prioritise Them
Stage two is very critical as prioritising different stakeholders sets up project directions and its possible influencing power. The process of prioritising involves analysing stakeholders regarding their abilities to deliver favourable outcomes. Based on this, corporate leaders and project managers can prioritise engagement and communication activities with the most important stakeholders.
Many matrixes have been designed and utilised successfully to tackle this critical task. Following stakeholder matrix will prove an efficient weapon to prioritise stakeholders for desired project success:
Horizontal Axes: Stakeholder Importance
Vertical Axes: Stakeholder Influence
In the above matrix, stakeholders falling into section A, B, and C are highly critical for project success and can positively influence project outcomes.
On the other hand, stakeholders falling into section D contain low-influencing ability and therefore, demand limited evaluation or monitoring.
Stage Three: Understanding and Managing Them
Stage three involves considering different stakeholders based on their attitude towards the project and potential risk factors associated with their project involvement. This enables organisations to manage engagement activities with them and determine ways to minimise risk factors.
Stage Four: Setting Goals
Stage four demands project managers and corporate leaders to designate responsibilities for various communication tasks to different project team members. Designating responsibilities will assist in setting up project goals and determine timelines for numerous project tasks.
Stage Five: Evaluation and Revision
Evaluation and revision are required to be carried out frequently throughout the project. Evaluation process enables project managers to identify new potential stakeholders and changes in existing stakeholder influence or importance. In many instances, the perception of project changes, and that’s why revision of the approach to current stakeholders becomes necessary. The more advanced the project phase is, the more a focused action towards particular stakeholder is required.
Just like the matrix, many stakeholder evaluation tables have been prepared, and participants were asked to fill in the details in the table to carry out the evaluation in an efficient manner. Following details are common among many analysis tables (the nature of details may change as per project niche):
- Why are they important? (Influence explained)
- Current attitude
- Expected actions
- Key Messages (for him)
- How (Tactics)
- By Whom
For example, evaluation task had been carried out concerning a rural landscape project. Farmers were one of the crucial stakeholders for the project and their importance and influence was necessary to evaluate the success of the project. Here is how the filled in the table would look like:
- Name: Martin
- Role: Farmer
- Why are they important: Potential influencing capability being farmer opinion leader
- Current attitude: Faces difficulties in understanding goals and benefits of our project
- Expected actions: Advocating benefits of our project to the other farmers
- Key Messages: Benefits to him and the other farmers, if they agree to work with us
- How: Send invites to them for project field day
- When: 15th December
- By Whom: Luke (Project coordinator)
Interesting Social Media Connection with Stakeholder Analysis
Connectivity and relationships are two inseparable characteristics associated with social media. Interestingly, social networks play the vital role in stakeholder analysis and management.
International Journal of Strategic Communication has published an article on this topic, written by Kristina Sedereviciute and Chiara Valentini.
While popular social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and so on, carry the reputation of being efficient tools to connect and search candidates for jobs, they are often considered as inefficient for building stakeholder relationships. Many experts disagree with such assumptions. In fact, social networks have emerged as one of the robust platforms to search, analyse and connect with project oriented stakeholders.
Organisations are required to identify and analyse their online stakeholders before engaging with them in social networks. Social media provides organisations with plethora opportunities to post interesting project related content and actively engage with stakeholders. However, not all content delivers effective results. People tend to connect more quickly to content that has been discussed by famous personalities. Known stakeholders automatically acquire content legitimacy, if more actors show an inclination towards particular content type and value it more.
In many ways, various stakeholders benefit from interacting over social networks when searching for desired information and acting upon some issues. People look for more information in social communities and show active participation in sharing, engaging and selecting information among social communities to take certain decisions, solve problems, and even enhance their knowledge. That way, social networks in many ways represent powerful tools to build lasting relationships with key stakeholders.