There are many good things about preparing stakeholder analysis. One is that you can see all the potential influencers that may affect your project’s success. Once you have analyzed their position and effect on your project, you can develop a stakeholder engagement plan.
In this article, we will explore several examples of how everything about the stakeholder engagement plan works:
- How stakeholder analysis reveals a stakeholder’s position and effects on your project,
- How to decide on an engagement plan for the stakeholder,
- How to engage the stakeholder and make them contribute to your project positively,
- How to control the efficiency of your plan.
How Does Stakeholder Analysis Work?
A project manager performs a stakeholder analysis by:
- Identifying possible stakeholders that may affect the project.
- Analyzing the stakeholder, especially how they may affect the project.
- Deciding if the stakeholder is important enough, and
- Setting an engagement plan to motivate the stakeholder to contribute to your project.
Here is the thing – the engagement plan is the tail end of a long set of processes called project stakeholder management. It requires you to first identify the stakeholders and analyze them. Once you have done that, you can decide how to get them to add value to your project.
Step 1: Identifying Stakeholders
The first step for a project manager is to identify people or parties that are stakeholders in their project. Stakeholders are people, parties, or organizations that can affect a project.
The project manager then compiles the list of possible stakeholders into a document. This document is commonly called the stakeholder register.
Step 2: Analyzing Stakeholders
The next stage involves the project manager analyzing the stakeholders individually. During the analysis, the project manager tries to place him or herself in the stakeholder’s shoes.
From there, the project manager tries to make educated guesses about the following:
- What does the stakeholder think of the project?
- Will the project help the stakeholder to achieve their objectives?
- How interested is the stakeholder in the project?
This is commonly done in a spreadsheet, expanded from the stakeholder register. This expanded stakeholder register is usually called the stakeholder analysis.
Step 3: Developing Engagement Plan
A project manager usually gains a deeper understanding of a stakeholder from analyzing them. This allows them to make certain decisions about these stakeholders.
The decisions usually involve:
- Is a stakeholder important enough to dedicate time to their engagement?
- What to do with the stakeholder?
- How to get the stakeholder to contribute to the project?
- How to contain the possible negative effect the stakeholder may bring to the project?
Once the project manager settles on an engagement plan, they can then go ahead and execute it.
Scenario 1: Recruiting A Quality Assurance Lead
Steve is an experienced project manager working for an international software development company. His latest project requires him to build custom software to manage a clinic for a client.
He does his standard stakeholder analysis. He discovers that Marcus, the technical director of the client’s side, has a strong quality assurance (QA) background.
Marcus has certifications with ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board). This client is also a Certified Test Engineer (CSTE). His resume also includes building some highly specialized software used by medical professionals.
Marcus is also known for his bold, straight-shooting style of talking. There have been cases of his work partners almost assaulting him for how he criticizes their work.
“I better have someone who can match his standards of quality,” mutters Steve.
He added this remark on his engagement plan for Marcus in his stakeholder analysis document:
“Ensure I find a quality assurance lead that matches his expertise. If not, he will cause us massive headaches and possible delays. This QA lead also needs to advise me on things as well.”
Steve moves and tries to execute his plan. He spent some time digging into his company’s list of people with quality assurance skills. He found three. James, Nikolai, and Kristian. He duly added these three to his stakeholder register.
Steve then tries to see if he can get either of them to join his team. To do this, he also analyzes each of them using his stakeholder analysis document.
James has a similar experience to Marcus and has also performed QA work with highly specialized software. James also carries many certifications that could match Marcus’s.
But James is currently deep into another project and may not have much time left. He is also the darling of other project managers fighting for him. Steve may be too junior to recruit James.
“Not going to work,” thinks Steve as he crosses James off his list.
Nikolai is an up-and-coming QA lead, having recently helped his team deliver a project on schedule. He is currently unassigned, which means he may be free to come over to his project.
Steve called on Shanjay, Nikolai’s previous project manager, for his opinions. Shanjay raved about Nikolai, talking about his attention to detail. Shanjay was also impressed by his ability to ensure developers follow standards and procedures.
“But hey, if you question his work, he gets defensive. He can get blunt and personal with his words. I have seen him make a junior developer cry in town hall sessions for even asking questions about certain procedures he set.”
Steve thought about Marcus’s personality and wondered if Nikolai could work well with him. After a while, he added the following remark to his stakeholder analysis for Nikolai:
“Not the first choice. Nikolai may create a hostile work environment in a team. He may also create explosive situations with Marcus. If joining the team as QA lead, needs to be kept away from Marcus as much as possible.”
Steve now trains his eyes on Kristian. Kristian has recently joined the company, having recently resigned from his position. Kristian is well-stacked with certifications himself and has an impressive resume. Surprisingly, he is currently unassigned.
“Ask for lunch. Ask about why he is not assigned and why he resigned from his previous company”. Steve wrote in his engagement plan.
Kristian appreciated the lunch, and they had a long, drawn chat. Steve noticed an air of calm about Kristian. He speaks slowly and thoughtfully. He may match Marcus’s fiery behavior.
Steve found out that Kristian resigned from his previous company because he was placed under too much control.
“The project lead has little experience in QA but tries to meddle in everything I do. I try to give advice, but he doesn’t listen. Then I have to take the blame in meetings when things don’t work out. I had enough.” Kristian said.
Steve ended the lunch with the following note about Kristian and updated that in his engagement plan.
“Looks eager to prove himself in a new environment. Wants more freedom to implement his QA plans. Should be able to advise me on QA matters well. Consider offering him to join the team.”
A few days later, Steve asked if Kristian could join the team. Kristian outlined his vision and what he intends to do with the QA side of Steve’s projects, and Steve agreed to it.
Kristian came on board 3 days later. Steve later updates his engagement plan on Kristian with the following:
“Allow Kristian freedom to implement QA processes. Observe his demeanor to determine his suitability to work with Marcus. If Kristian’s calm and cool personality stays even when under stress, give him space to work directly with Marcus.”
Steve also updated his engagement plan with Marcus:
“I must be with the team members whenever Marcus meets them, and Kristian should be with me to advise me on how to answer his questions. If Marcus gets abusive, reschedule the meeting and protect my team members.”
Scenario 2: Managing Power Play From Stakeholders
Victor is the project manager of a small software development project. The team currently has eight people, and there were not many stakeholders. Most of them are internal within Victor’s own company, plus a few from the client’s side.
Despite this, the project is considered high profile for Victor’s company. This is because the client is the first multinational corporation the company has ever worked with. Victor’s CEO is keen to leave a great impression.
Under Victor’s management, things are going well. The project is cruising through the execution phase and should achieve a major milestone soon. Kevin, Victor’s CEO, and the client are pleased with how the project is going.
Victor was sipping his morning coffee when an email came in from Richard, the director of development. It was a small set of additional requirements for the project management approach and the software development process.
“Hmm… looks ok, but they will be a bit cumbersome to implement. It’ll be additional work for the programmers, not when they need to focus and push to the milestone”. Victor thinks to himself.
Victor pulled out his stakeholder analysis document and confirmed that Richard is a low-interest, low-power stakeholder.
After deliberating on this for a bit, Victor added the following to his stakeholder management plan for Richard:
“Proposed some additional requirements. May revisit when the programmers have pushed through to the milestone since these are not too important. He does not have the muscle to push us to do this now. Will let him know over email.”
Just as Victor thought the matter was closed, another email came from Larry.
Larry is the director of quality, and to Victor’s analysis, another low-interest, low-power stakeholder. His email seems to echo Richard’s. His set of requirements seemed smaller but was built on Richard’s previous email.
“Hmm.. this is strange.” Victor thinks. He updates his stakeholder management plan on Richard with the following:
“Proposes a series of small requirements, something similar to Richard’s. Not hard to implement, but it can be cumbersome. May revisit this after the milestone, together with Richard.”
Victor fires off an email to both Richard and Larry, mentioning that the team’s focus is to get to the milestone. Victor also mentions that these changes must be implemented in stages to avoid disrupting the team’s progress.
A reply came in just as he was about to leave his desk.
“This is not negotiable. These processes are not as cumbersome as you mentioned. We need you to get this done now. All of it.”
To top it up, the email also CC-ed the CEO, CTO, and Victor’s direct manager, Donnie.
This really sets up Victor’s eyebrow. He is rather surprised at Larry and Richard’s aggressive email. They have always been cool and flexible with things.
“These requirements are not even in their field of responsibility. It’s Donnie’s. Why are they trying to do Donnie’s job?” Thinks Victor.
Victor concluded he may have to play a part in a political battle, between Donnie, his manager, against Larry and Richard. To make a decision on how to act in this situation. Victor believes he needs to know the story from his manager’s end.
He updates his stakeholder management plan on Donnie:
“Seems to be under pressure from Larry and Richard. Ask him what’s going on so you know what you can do to protect your team.”
Victor and Donnie discussed what happened over some quesadillas and a beer. Turns out that there is a lot more than that Victor sees:
“What’s going on? Why is Larry and Richard suddenly becoming so aggressive?”
“It’s the management meeting. Kevin chewed on them, asking why there were so many technical problems.”
“You bet. Larry and Richard’s face was red as a beetroot throughout the meeting. Kevin also complained that the email thread is so long that he could not even figure out what’s happening.”
“Did they say anything?”
“Their counterpoint was that the project managers were not listening and were not collaborating with him.”
At this point, Victor realized something. Perhaps Larry and Richard’s aggressive email wasn’t about the technical requirements.
They want to prove to Kevin, the CEO, that they are doing their best but are not supported by the project managers. They probably do not care too much about the requirements but just want to restore Kevin’s trust. Donnie agreed to his thought too.
“What’s your plan now, Donnie?”
“Time to let the CEO know what they are actually doing. I’m going to ask Kevin why they are being so unreasonable and if they are planning something sinister.”
Victor returned to his desk after lunch. A few minutes later, Donnie texted him.
“Email just went out. Kevin wants a meeting. Me, him, Larry, and Richard.”
“Sounds like a showdown. Good luck!”
“You keep them programmers working. I’ll catch hell for you here.”
The rest of the day went uneventfully. There was no news either.
The next day, Victor got an email from both Larry and Richard. The tone seems to be much cooler and easier than yesterday:
“Have time for lunch later? Let’s talk over the email yesterday. We think we’re a bit too rough there.”
Clearly, something must have happened in the meeting. Before agreeing to the meeting, Victor updates his stakeholder engagement plan on Larry and Richard:
“Agree to some of the changes, but not all. Ask them to allow your team to implement them slowly. Allow Larry and Richard opportunities to show Kevin they are trying hard and are getting the project manager’s support. This should back them off and keep your team focused on the milestone.”
Things went back to their usual after lunch, and Larry and Richard returned to their usual cool, easy-going demeanor.
As Richard sipped his evening coffee, he gladly looked at his stakeholder analysis. He was glad that he took his time to create it. With it, he could better understand the situation and protect his team and himself.
Unfortunately, this article was just one piece of a complex project stakeholder management framework: Many other processes happen before and after this one.
If one part doesn’t work, the whole system breaks.
My Stakeholder Management Plan Template connects all processes and tools into one cohesive system. It also provides access to other articles and videos on stakeholder management.
Don’t put your projects and reputation at risk. Ensure you know how stakeholder management works in the real world.
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