How to improve stakeholder management

Valuable tips to improve project delivery

Senior Business Analyst, Sandra Mukundu, shares her insights on how to improve stakeholder management.

In my opinion, managing stakeholders is no different from managing personal relationships in your day-to-day life. If you put the effort in, you will see positive results. For any project, knowing who is impacted by the project, and how and why they are impacted is really important. Understanding the impact of a project will ultimately help ensure its success. It will also help you to come up with strategies for how best to communicate with each stakeholder.

As a BA with over ten years’ experience in large and small technology projects, I know a thing or two about stakeholder relationships. This article outlines some of the practices I have used to maintain good stakeholder relationships.

Bringing stakeholders on board early

I like to understand what the deliverables are on any project, specifically, what is ‘in scope’ and what is ‘out of scope’. This helps me as I start to understand the current business processes and how these are impacted by the project. In doing a current state analysis, I’m able to keep track of everyone and their roles, allowing me to check in with them regularly. Bringing stakeholders on board early, helps them understand their role and makes them feel appreciated. This brings everyone closer to the desired project outcome.

Valuing the stakeholder’s opinion or contribution

I believe that a person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected. Often, people become used to doing the same task every day, sometimes without much appreciation from their peers or leaders. When working on the current and future state analysis of a project, I prefer to talk with the people who are involved in the day-to-day tasks to encourage better “buy-in”. I aim to empower these stakeholders by asking them to contribute on the future design and delivery of the project. Keeping stakeholders engaged also mitigates any negative behaviours that may impact the success of the project.

Keeping them informed – honest and frequent communication

To win the confidence of stakeholders, I make a point to understand their preferred method of communication and adapt when it comes to discussing the project. This may include email, audio/video calls, Microsoft Teams, chatting over coffee, or face-to-face formal meetings. Although a project might have monthly status reports to send out, I have regular catch-ups with key stakeholders. It’s important to keep them informed on the milestones and request their feedback on how they think the project is progressing.

While the above is by no means a comprehensive list of things you can do to improve stakeholder relationships, these tips will help you and your projects succeed! One thing I have learned along the way is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to stakeholder management. Every project and organisation is different.

One last tip – tailor the conversations you have to the needs at hand. I’ve found this to be extremely helpful in staying ‘in scope’ whilst still maintaining good relationships with the project stakeholders.

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The IIBA BABOK Guide defines a stakeholder as “a group or individual with a relationship to the change, the need, or the solution.”