Unfortunately, many project managers have seen a project fail due to unexpected “people” issues, such as key players not giving information or resources to the project management team. After my own experience with this problem on a few projects, I realized that part of the problem stemmed from my own actions. I found that during the feasibility and planning stages of the project, I had done very little work to understand the stakeholders on the project. I also neglected to anticipate problems their issues might create for the project.

To avoid these issues on future projects, I developed a method that helps me think through and handle the issue of stakeholders more thoroughly. This method revolves around three Ps:

  • Process: How can I best discover the needs of my stakeholders?
  • Preparation: What information do you need to collect from stakeholders, and how do you plan to use that information?
  • Performance: What is the most effective way to act upon the information gleaned from the stakeholder analysis?

In this article, I’ll discuss the first P: the process of stakeholder analysis and the use of the stakeholder assessment map and the stakeholder reporting matrix.

First in a series

This is the first of three articles that examines ways to work best with project stakeholders. This article covers the process of stakeholder analysis, and future installments will discuss how to gather the right information from stakeholders and use it in the most effective manner.

Developing a stakeholder assessment map
At the heart of the stakeholder analysis process is the stakeholder assessment map (SAM). This tool is created in the feasibility phase of the project and is revisited during each of the following project phases. When you complete the SAM, you will be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who are the key stakeholders?
  • What are the goals, motivations, and interests of the key stakeholders?
  • What is the power and influence of each key stakeholder?
  • What is the importance/impact of each key stakeholder on the project?
  • What are the participation roles of each key stakeholder on the project?
  • How can you work with each stakeholder for win-win outcomes?

Figure A gives an example of an SAM:

Figure A

Developing the SAM can be an informal or a formal activity that involves you alone or includes other team members, depending on the scope of the project and the resources available. The following steps can lead you through the process:

  1. Develop a draft of the SAM on your own or with a group of project team members. If you wish, you can include other people outside of the project team, such as account managers or salespeople, if they are familiar with the client and the stakeholders.
  2. Share the draft with the project management team, and perhaps your manager, and use it to review stakeholder issues. Make any needed changes and finalize the map. You may not wish, however, to share all of the details included in the SAM with every project team member, because some of this information may be too sensitive.
  3. Continually refine and review the SAM to make sure it covers any issues that crop up as the project progresses.

Creating a stakeholder reporting matrix
A stakeholder reporting matrix (SRM) outlines how you will communicate with stakeholders.

Figure B shows an example of an SRM:

Figure B

An SRM maps out how project reports should be delivered to key stakeholders. Your SRM should cover the following:

  • Scope of interest: For which aspects of the project should each key stakeholder receive a report?
  • Frequency: How often should each key stakeholder receive a report?
  • Level of detail: How much detail should the report contain?
  • Delivery mechanism: How should the report be delivered (e.g., face-to-face, e-mail)?
  • Format: How should the report be laid out (e.g., bullet style, graphics, narrative)?

You should go through the same steps to develop a stakeholder reporting matrix as you would to create a stakeholder assessment map. But unlike the SAM, the SRM should not require continuous refinement.

How do you reach stakeholders?

As a consultant, what work do you do to ensure you’re addressing the needs of the stakeholders? Tell us in a discussion or send us an e-mail.