Think about the many IT projects that you have served. Are Stakeholders appointed for you? Or have you purposefully hand-selected the best Stakeholders to help ensure your project success? Stakeholders are the often-overlooked secret weapon to help a project succeed.
In my previous article, “Recruiting the Right Stakeholders Will Make Your Project Successful,” I was mainly focused on how to recruit the right primary stakeholder for your project. This article extends that discussion to the recruiting of additional engaged Stakeholders, each one with a unique role for maximum project contribution.
The Power/Influence Quadrant – a Tool for Successful Stakeholder Selection
Many of the characteristics required of the primary stakeholder should also be considered when selecting the other stakeholders for the project. One of the tools that I use is an analytical tool that assesses potential stakeholders along a power/influence quadrant. A project example follows to further explain how this quadrant might be used on your next project.
The four major stakeholder contributors can be summarized as follows:
- Ancillary organizations that will be affected by the system implementation, but are not the major end users: stakeholders that represent these organizations are persons with lower power and lower influence. They require minimal effort to manage their project role. They are monitored for their subject matter and/or environmental contributions, but not for their influence regarding main project outcomes.
- Direct beneficiaries of the system, who may or may not be the major end users: stakeholders for these organizations tend to have lower power but high influence. These stakeholders need to be kept informed and solicited for input from their constituents, but are not selected for their ability to influence main project outcomes.
- Client executives required to handle major roadblocks or to commit funds and resources: these executive stakeholders are persons with high power but often with lower influence. They are familiar with the workings of the client organization and can make critical decisions quickly. They need to be kept satisfied and apprised of project progress, but do not impose their influence on day-to-day project execution or system functional requirements.
- Client executives required to make quick decisions and manage executive liaison: these stakeholders are typically the focus of the project sponsor and are persons with both high power and high influence. By their sheer presence on the project a majority of the time, these stakeholders are key players committed to the success of the project. They are managed closely, as one would “manage up” in any organizational model.
I know, I know. Project Managers prefer to manage projects, and project teams, and schedules and timelines and resource loading charts. But one of the greatest people skills that a Project Manager can develop for the good of the project and for the good of his or her career is the ability to manage at the executive level.
The Power/Influence Quadrant – a Real-Life Example of Successful Stakeholder Selection
I served on the PMO of a major project for a large state government department. We used this quadrant to help select various project stakeholders and to manage their contributions to the governance of the project. Some stakeholders were appointed by interested organizations. Though we did not have an opportunity to select them ourselves, we used this quadrant to also manage their contributions.
The following description illustrates the power/influence quadrant and how we utilized it in managing the different stakeholder roles on the project:
- The union representing non-exempt workers of the government department for which we were developing a new system was an organization that was ancillary to the overall project. Although the union had no direct involvement with what the new system was designed to do or how it would be implemented, it was gravely concerned that the system would displace workers. In this way, the union was a stakeholder, albeit with low power and low influence.
We met with its appointed stakeholder representatives periodically to inform them of project progress, and to keep them abreast of system functionality that would have a direct effect on their workers’ job functions.
- A direct beneficiary of the new system was a federal government agency. This agency that had low power with regard to the design of the system, or how it would be implemented. However, as the agency with regulatory control over required functionality and standardized policy, its stakeholder representatives had high influence regarding the system outcomes.
We managed this stakeholder with specific status reporting and scheduled phase-end gate reviews. The status reporting ensured this stakeholder that its required functionality and policy requirements were addressed by the new system. Additionally, during User Acceptance Testing we prepared test results for its review and approval prior to implementing the system.
- Within the client organization, the CIO had control of project funding, approval of change orders, conformity of the technical system design to his department’s overall technical direction, and augmenting the build phase of the project with additional technical resources. The CIO had high power to remove roadblocks and to make funds available for project continuance. However, he had little influence on the functional requirements, or day-to-day project activities, or the implementation of the system in the field.
We met with him frequently to keep him apprised of detailed project status, upcoming milestones and gate reviews, and funding requirements. We also sought his support to remove organizational obstacles that threatened to impede progress.
- Our major stakeholder was the project sponsor, who was very agreeable to our request for additional stakeholders from the client organization. We needed executives that would make quick decisions and manage liaison with the field, with subject matter experts, with legal, and with policy. Not only did the primary stakeholder have high power and high influence, so did those she offered up to the project.
These stakeholders had everything to gain with the successful implementation of the system. They were ever-present on site, frequently rolling up their sleeves to accelerate progress. We managed them closely with regard to their executive support and guidance, while keeping them at arms’ length with regard to the day-to-day details of task execution.
In short, with this attention to managing stakeholder input, we were able to maximize the contribution of each stakeholder organization resulting in a very successful implementation.
2. Process Initiation – Identify Stakeholders
If you want your IT projects to come in on time and within budget; if you want your clients to be your best ambassadors and your project teams to be committed to your success; if you want to stop leaving money on the table – then Merv Jersak is the mentor and coach who will work with you to help attain the results to which you aspire. With more than 40 years’ experience as an IT Project Management and systems consultant, Merv works with IT solution providers and end-user organizations, focusing on the people aspects of project delivery to drive more profit to the bottom line and to have fewer budget overruns.
To learn more about Merv’s service offerings, or to hire him to speak to your organization, visit www.PeopleFirstProjectManagement.com.
52 Project Management Success Tips from Merv Jersak • Copyright ©2020. All rights reserved.