Managing Stakeholders: an integrated system of actions, tasks, and methods

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This article describes an integrated system of actions, tasks, and methods for managing project stakeholders. It highlights the strategic business actions, the tactical project tasks, and operational methods conducted by project sponsors, project managers and business analysts respectively.


Introduction

Stakeholder management involves the influence of individuals who can affect the execution of the project or the results of the project can affect them. We call these individuals stakeholders. Obtaining their support and setting their expectations are vital to the success of any project. There are strategic actions and tactical tasks along with operational methods for managing stakeholders. Project sponsor, project manager, and business analyst roles perform these actions, tasks and methods respectively. Besides these stakeholder management responsibilities, project managers inherit the actions of their project sponsors, and business analysts inherit the actions and tasks of both their project sponsors and project managers, respectively1.

Below is my mind-map (Figure 1) on an Integrated System for Managing Stakeholders. In this mind-map, there are three central ideas. From left to right, they are project sponsor, project manager, and business analyst roles. Each central idea branch represents their actions, tasks, and methods. The dotted lines represent the inheritance relationships between the roles.

Mind-map – An Integrated System for Managing Stakeholders

Figure 1. Mind-map – An Integrated System for Managing Stakeholders (larger image)

Project Sponsors–Strategic Actions

Project sponsor’s stakeholder management actions consist of the following:

• Identify the urgency
• Develop a business case
• Pursue a coalition
• Handle resistance

When promoting a project, the project sponsor needs to convince other executives to support it. Essentially, the sponsor has to identify what is the business urgency. Has there been a change in the strategic plan, in the marketplace, in customer values, or has there been a disappointment in current process performance? In that strategic context, the sponsor explains how the project addresses the urgency.

Assuming the sponsor obtains executive support, the sponsor develops a business case for broader support. The business case covers a description of the project along with its cost and benefits. If the project is discretionary, the sponsor includes an economic justification. With the business case in hand, the sponsor now pursues a coalition of stakeholders.

A coalition is a cross-section of management with interest in the affected business areas. Even with the business case in hand,the sponsor most likely will need to handle stakeholder resistance. Regardless of the reason(s) for resistance, the sponsor needs to understand and address their underlying interests to gain their support. With a coalition formed, the sponsor designates a project manager(s).

Project Managers – Tactical Tasks

Besides inheriting the sponsor’s actions, project managers have their own stakeholder management tasks. These tasks involve project planning.

  • Identify an expanded set of stakeholders
  • Invite stakeholders to initial meetings
    • Obtain buy-in
    • Develop champions
  • Create a vision
  • Set expectations
  • Communicate Status

Once assigned to a project, the project manager expands the executive and coalition support by identifying end users and customers that the project will directly affect. The project manager invites these stakeholders to initial meetings for the purpose of gaining buy-in and developing champions who will further promote the project. Working together with the directly impacted stakeholders, the project manager leads an effort to create a vision and scope (i.e., the project boundaries).

Project managers need to set stakeholder expectations throughout the project. In drawing the project boundaries, the project manager sets only the initial expectations. During the project, the project manager follows up with the stakeholders on project status, progress, informs them of decisions or in some cases consults with them prior to making a decision. The question is how should the project manager communicate and at what frequency. For this purpose, the project manager ranks stakeholders by interest and influence; see Figure 2.

Stakeholder Ranking Grid 

Figure 2. Stakeholder Ranking Grid

Per the stakeholder ranking, the project manager chooses a method and frequency for the communications; the higher the ranking the more personal and frequent the communications. For example (influence/interest):

• low/low – quarterly project status report
• low/high – monthly project progress email
• high/low – monthly conference call (inform on project decisions made)
• high/high – weekly face-to-face meeting (consult on project decisions to be made)

Business Analysts – Operational Methods

With this unified view of the project vision and scope, the business analyst can now start the requirements elicitation. As in the case with project managers inheriting the actions by the sponsors, business analysts inherit the sponsor’s actions and the project manager’s tasks. In support of these actions and tasks, business analysts use their own stakeholder management methods in eliciting requirements2. Stakeholder management methods consist of the following:

• Diagnostic thinking
• Neutral posture
• Maintain ownership
• Ask questions
Active listening
• Generate participation
• Use their words
• Resolve conflicts

Business analysts use diagnostic thinking when first meeting with stakeholders. Diagnostic thinking focuses the conversation on understanding the business problem or opportunity prior to determining a solution. It also places the stakeholder on equal footing with the business analyst. Whenever a person asks for help, there is a feeling of inferiority. Business analysts can set an egalitarian atmosphere by first focusing on the stakeholders’ business expertise.

As business analysts elicit an understanding of the business problem or opportunity from the stakeholders, they hold a neutral posture on the business requirements and guide the stakeholder dialogue by asking questions and using active listening. This ensures that the stakeholders determine their own needs and maintain ownership of any follow-on solution3.Business analysts generate participation in meetings by making sure that all stakeholders express their opinions and use the stakeholders’ words in describing their current business situation and future vision. In addition, business analysts use the above methods to facilitate a dialogue between stakeholders in resolving any conflicts.


Summary

The article provides some insight on an integrated system of actions, tasks and methods on managing stakeholders. Similar to tracing requirements back to the business need, we can see how business analysis methods support the tactical tasks performed by the project manager. Moreover, these tactical tasks support the strategic actions by the sponsor. All of stakeholder management actions, tasks, and methods are perhaps small items on a project considering all the knowledge areas of project management and business analysis knowledge. However, when orchestrated as an integrated system, it leads to major results.

Notes

• 1This is similar to class and superclass inheritance in Unified Modeling Language (UML) Class Models. A class inherits the attributes, operations, and relationships of its superclass, plus may have its own attributes, operations, and relationships.
• 2Facilitators may refer to these stakeholder management methods as “emotional intelligence.”
• 3Business analysts analyze stakeholder needs and develop solution requirements after the elicitation. Solution requirements consist of system functional, nonfunctional, and transitional requirements.


 

Author: Mr. Monteleone holds a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in computing science from Texas A&M University. He is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP®) by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®), a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) by the Scrum Alliance, and certified in BPMN by BPMessentials. He holds an Advanced Master’s Certificate in Project Management (GWCPM®) and a Business Analyst Certification (GWCBA®) from George Washington University School of Business. Mark is the President of Monteleone Consulting, LLC and can be contacted via – www.baquickref.com.







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