If you follow a systematic process for stakeholder mapping and management, then you have taken a key step towards managing your project successfully.
Many projects stumble and encounter difficulties due to inadequate stakeholder mapping. This can occur for a variety of reasons:
- It can be as simple as not identifying key stakeholders. If they are left out of the consultation and communication loop, they tend to emerge at a later stage full of resentment about their omission, no matter that it may have been completely unintentional.
- The influence of stakeholders can be under (or over) estimated. If you want your project to be successful, stakeholders with high levels of influence over your project need to be identified and given high priority at the outset.
- Getting stakeholder prioritisation wrong, so that communication with important stakeholders is too light and communication with less important stakeholders is excessive.
- Not being able to build a relationship of trust with stakeholders.
- Lack of awareness about stakeholders’ influence and how it changes during the course of a project – be aware of this and allow for it by changing communication and engagement levels.
Stakeholder mapping involves identifying, analysing and prioritising the people and organisations with a stake in your project features and performance. Initially this will assist you to determine project requirements and ultimately it will help you to manage and communicate with your stakeholders effectively.
Now let’s have a closer look at the four steps of stakeholder mapping and management:
Identify. The first step is stakeholder identification. But what are stakeholders? A stakeholder is anyone that has an interest in the outcome of a project or process. Projects, particularly infrastructure projects and public works, usually generate a large community of interest and their impacts can be far reaching. Stakeholders fall into two main categories – those who contribute to a project, and those who are affected by a project. For a new multi story building, the building designers and the building owners who fund and specify the building requirements contribute to the project. Now think about who will be affected – environmentally, socially, culturally or economically. For instance neighbours to the new building will be affected by the impact of the building due to possible loss of privacy and views, shading, and increased wind speeds.
Sometimes stakeholders fit into both categories. The client who provides the funding for the new IT project definitely falls into the contribute category, but they will also be affected by the project outcomes because they will be using the new IT system.
Projects can be delayed or sidetracked if key stakeholders are not identified, so at the outset of a project it is important to identify stakeholders. Let’s look at our two main categories – stakeholders who contribute and stakeholders who are affected – and break them down further. The diagram gives an overview of typical stakeholders.
Analyse. The next step is stakeholder analysis. This involves defining stakeholders’ roles and expectations. All stakeholders are not created equal. Some have the potential to generate a much greater impact on the project than others. How do you assess that? The best way is to follow a logical process. Be systematic. Using a matrix which maps stakeholders according to their influence and interest allows you to paint a picture of your stakeholders’ level of involvement and therefore the type of engagement that you need to have with them. You get an understanding of what motivates your stakeholders and how you need to win them around.
Prioritise. Once you understand your stakeholders you can prioritise their needs. By categorising stakeholders you can map them into appropriate engagement levels – do you need to Manage them closely? Keep them Satisfied? Keep them informed? Or simply Monitor them? Remember that stakeholder status can change during the course of a project. So your analysis and prioritisation needs to be regularly updated.
Engage. The final stage is the process by which you engage with your key stakeholders to win their support and understanding. This forms the basis of your Communications Plan – which will be the subject of a future article.
Continuing Professional Development offers Stakeholder Analysis training courses online to help you carry out a systematic process for stakeholder mapping so that you can engage effectively with stakeholders. The course includes a Stakeholder Analysis template so you can easily carry out your Stakeholder mapping and automatically plot your stakeholders on the Influence/Interest matrix. A scenario based case study followed by an online discussion forum allows you to apply your learning and discuss your stakeholder analysis with your online colleagues. Start your stakeholder mapping training now – Course overviews can be downloaded here.