All projects involve people with certain interests and priorities in the ongoing or future project(s), these people are known as stakeholders as they can directly or indirectly influence or impact or your project. In simpler words, stakeholder can be a person or organization that is affected by a project or that influences the project.
The most obvious rationale may be:
- Stakeholders from different domains/areas/segments may have different expectations; if their expectations not considered seriously then they may positively or negatively influence your project. It is not about being scared of these stakeholders rather it is about understanding what they expect from the project and helping resolve all the current issues & future risks.
- They may have conflicting interests or requirements which doesn’t align with the project scope- so what to do with them? Ignore them or take them seriously. Only suggestion is to get them involved as soon as you can, communicate to them regularly and meet their expectations. It doesn’t mean chance the project scope rather it is about bringing everyone on the same page. You will need strong negotiation skills and interpersonal skills.
- Although normally stakeholders work on the favor of projects success but in few scenarios –stakeholders with high Influence & high Authority may negatively impact the project. You obviously know now what to do with these stakeholders? Don’t, you?
- Few stakeholders are the Subject Matter Experts who may provide insights to the future risks and may help in designing the efficient & effective solution for the requirement. They are the gems of your project, and never should be ignored. Exploit SMEs Knowledge!
- There are other types of stakeholders who will either constrain your project (example – federal employee handling laws , compliance.. or environmentalist concerned about the fish near your project home etc) or the ones who wish ultimate failure of your project (the competitors). You will need negotiation experience, market knowledge, product knowledge and soft skills to deal with these stakeholders. They may not directly impact your project progress but they may definitely change the outcome of your project. If constrained tighter than expected then your Venus rover (final product of your project) will either land on moon or will look like a school bus. SCOPE CREEP!
Expert judgment is considered most efficient and cost effective method of requirement analysis. Be careful when you involve such judgment in the project solution. Different people (experts) may have different angle of viewing the same thing- one may see it as orange and another as an apple. If you don’t know whether it is orange or apple (in most cases you will never know) then go to the larger group to find the answer. Example – Information is defined differently by Accountants than the IT Developers; it doesn’t even align with the particle physicists’ definition of Information. Always and always perform a feasibility test on such proposed solution and verify it with larger audience (experts who wants to listen to you & care about the project) .
If you are thinking, is there a way to categories and strategically handle all stakeholders? -Then the short and sweet solution to your question-is again to involve them as early as you can and as many as you can. Never think of starting with few and growing in number of stakeholders- RATHER think just opposite. Most of the people who are not impacted by your project will soon leave the project. If you already involved a stakeholder who has high authority/power & influence and confirmed that he/she is not impacted by project then you are safe to ignore him/her in future, but think what would happen if totally missed out to involve this stakeholder in your project? Don’t you think it will be a disaster, ether your project will fail due to his/her influence and repeated change requests or you will soon be searching for the new job? So, you now know the answer to question – When is the best time to involve them?
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