Once the wheels of the project have been set in motion, it’s now time to identify and talk to the key project stakeholders about the project and get more specifics regarding the goals and deliverables of the project.
Our objective at this point is to compile a project overview or project definition. The overview will have enough information to describe the project, the business requirements, the project’s objectives, and how we’ll recognize when the project is successfully completed.
Think of stakeholders and project participants as a highly polished orchestra. Each participant has a part to play. Some play more than others. And alas, some play their parts better than others. An integral part of project management is getting to know your stakeholders and the parts they play.
Stakeholders are those people or organizations who have a vested interest in the outcome of the project. They have something to either gain or lose as a result of the project. In practice, key stakeholders will have to be contacted early on to get their input for the project overview, goals, and delivery.
Identifying key stakeholders at this point should be fairly easy. Stakeholders might include the project sponsor, the customer (who might be the same as the project sponsor), the project manager, project team members, management personnel, contractors, suppliers, etc. Stakeholders can be internal or external to the organization.
One way to uncover stakeholders whom you might not have thought about right at the start is to ask known stakeholders if they’re aware of anyone else that might be impacted by this project. Ask team members if they’re aware of stakeholders who haven’t been identified.
Stakeholders might come to the forefront once you start uncovering some of the goals and deliverables of the project also. Don’t forget important stakeholders. That could be a project killer. Leaving out an important stakeholder, or one whose business processes weren’t considered during project Initiation and Planning could spell disaster for the project. Not to mention it could be another one of those career-limiting moves for the project manager.
Understanding Stakeholders’ Roles
It’s important for the project manager to understand each stakeholders’ role in the project and their role in the organization. Get to know them and their interests. Determine the relationship structure among the various stakeholders. Start cultivating partnerships with these stakeholders now as it’s going to get pretty crazy during the course of your project.
If you establish good working relationships up front and learn a little about their business concerns and needs, it might be easier to negotiate or motivate them later on when you have a pressing issue that needs action. Knowing which stakeholders work well together and which don’t can also help you in the future.
One stakeholder may have the authority or influence to twist the arm of another. Or conversely, you might know of two stakeholders who never should be in the same room together. This can be valuable information to keep close at hand for future reference.