When I started my Business Analyst career, I was fortunate enough to have a fantastically supportive manager. One of the things he taught me from the outset was that it’s absolutely vital to understand the people that are working on your project, and no matter how good your analytical skills are – if you aren’t able to understand, connect and engage with stakeholders, than you will have a difficult time.
Stakeholder Management is an extremely important part of a BA’s role, but during busy projects, and when deadlines are tight, it can seem “less urgent” and can easily get forgotten about.
Why Stakeholder Management matters:
We all know that projects can be uncomfortable places to work at times. I often describe a project as being a bit like a car journey – you set out with a road map, but there will still be unexpected surprises like pot-holes, traffic and road closures. Carrying out good quality stakeholder analysis and management throughout a project’s lifecycle enables you to foresee issues, much like warning signs on a road. The issues may still exist, but you’ll be able to steer around them. For example you’ll be able to identify individuals who are less-than-supportive of the project. Identifying these problems early can be hugely beneficial – you can then work as a project team to address stakeholder concerns, help them to understand the project, and hopefully allay any fears they have.
Stakeholder Analysis will help you to understand who the real key players are on your project. You’ll be able to identify who to engage when during your project, which will reduce the risk of late changes or missed requirements. Plus it will help you cut through the “noise” of a project – you’ll know who actually has interest and influence, and who doesn’t, and you’ll be able to engage each group differently.
The simple act of identifying and speaking with stakeholders really helps with their level of engagement. When people are involved early in a project, they tend to feel more bought in. They feel “heard”, and feel that their opinion counts. It allows a project team to ensure that expectations are clearly managed from the outset, so that the solution works as all the key stakeholders have anticipated.
How to carry out stakeholder management
There are many different stakeholder management methodologies, but most have three core components. I will discuss each area briefly below. There is a lot more that could be said about each of these points, but hopefully you will find this to be a useful introduction:
- Identify your stakeholders:
- Categorise your stakeholders
- Create a stakeholder engagement plan
- Communicate & Revisit
Once you have started to engage with your stakeholders, keep the communication channels open. As a community of practitioners, BAs sometimes have the reputation of being very visible for a short period of time, then “disappearing” whilst the solution is designed. Don’t let this happen – stay in touch with the key people on your project and keep them updated.And finally, update your stakeholder engagement plan regularly. It can be incredibly valuable to do this as a team, perhaps once every couple of weeks. It needn’t be time consuming, and is an easy way to flag up any new potential issues that might arise.
It’s essential that you identify anyone in your project that has some level of interest or influence. This will be a long list that is built upon over time – it can include anyone from an end-user, right up to the sponsor or CEO. It’s incredibly valuable to create a list of stakeholders, so that you can decide who to engage, when. This list should contain basic information like the stakeholders name, their department, location and their interest in the project.
Whilst you are creating your list, consider how far you need to “span out” within your organisation. Are there other departments, people, or users who you might need to engage? Do you need to include and engage any external stakeholders or even customers?
The next step is to categorise each stakeholder. A common way of doing this is to consider each stakeholders level of interest and influence, and perhaps assign a rating (0-10) against each of these. It’s then possible to draw a stakeholder map using a four-box grid, with influence vs interest. This allows you to treat groups of stakeholders differently. Clearly, people with high interest and influence are the key players, and they need to be managed closely!
This stakeholder map will give you a view of the level of interest and influence each stakeholder currently has; however be aware that interest levels can change as the project progresses!
Once you have established the key players in your project, you can meet them and understand their views and concerns about the project. You can take this opportunity to assess whether they are currently supportive or not supportive, and whether you need them to be more engaged than they currently are. Once you have this view, you can formulate a stakeholder engagement plan. This plan will show which stakeholder groups need to be engaged at which times, and will also show if there’s anyone who perhaps needs to be more involved than they are currently prepared to be. You can then work with the project team to ensure the right people are engaged at the right times, and you can address any early potential issues that you have uncovered.
A stakeholder engagement plan does not need to be wordy or formal. The important thing is that it is recorded in a way that your colleagues understand, as well as providing a way for you to track changing stakeholder attitudes over time.
Stakeholder Management is a broad subject, and I have only skimmed the surface in this article. However, I hope you have found this thought provoking and useful.
Do you have any Stakeholder Identification, Analysis or Management tips? I’d love to hear them – please feel free to contact me directly or leave a comment below: