If you are preparing for the PMI-RMP® examination, you must read the 5th of PMBOK® and there is a new knowledge area for Project Stakeholder Management. So, as long as PMI is highlighting the importance of Stakeholders, you, as a future Risk Manager, must pay the prompt attention.
The first step is to identify the potential Stakeholders (SH’s) of the project by working side by side with the Project Manager. According to PMI, a stakeholder is: “an individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project” (PMBoK 5th ed, p.30). So everyone associated with your project is a stakeholder and we need to be aware of their existence.
Formulating a detailed profile of each stakeholder, can be difficult and should be approached seriously. The immediate stakeholders are easy enough to find:
a. The most important stakeholder is the Project Sponsor which has approved the project and it is important that he maintains enthusiasm for the project throughout its lifecycle.
b. Another important stakeholder is one that we tend to ignore in our analysis: the project manager. Is he getting the project team excited about the project and are regularly reinforcing the overall vision? A project is possible to fail if the project manager is not 100% behind the work.
c. Moreover, the people of project team itself are vital stakeholders: they are the ones that do the work, so does it have any meaning for them? Or are they just doing this for a pay cheque?
d. At least but not last, Customers and End-users are obvious stakeholders. Managing customers can be tricky, as we have a tendency to encourage them to dream up too many requirements. Listening to everyone’s requests can pull a product in too many different directions. End users should definitely be involved in any project where there is a large user-interface component.
e. More difficult to identify are the external stakeholders. The project manager needs to be aware of any regulatory body that controls this sector and to learn about their requirements for the project’s deliverables.
f. Other potential stakeholders are those who are aware of the project but are not sure what it is about. This is a common problem with automation projects – people carrying out manual tasks often fear for their future when high-tech investments are rumoured.
Once you have identified your stakeholders, then it is useful to create a power/interest grid to highlight their relative importance to the project. It is useful to ask what can each stakeholder bring to the project and insure that their views and expertise are exploited to the full for the benefit of the project.
Another useful practice is to decide the stakeholders’ attitudes to the project with a tool called the Stakeholder Engagement Assessment Matrix that allows you to plot the current and desired attitude to the project. This tool has 5 categories: unaware, resistant, neutral, supportive and leading. The likes of the sponsor and project manager need to be leading and everyone else should be supportive. It is tempting to be satisfied if a stakeholder is unaware or neutral, but this can lead to trouble down the line.
Stakeholders are often regarded by risk managers as potential risks and that is a reasonable approach to take because a risk is an uncertainty and stakeholders, being people, can change their minds and no longer support the project. For a Risk Manager, every stakeholder must be managed throughout the project and supplied with the specific information that they require. Depending on the individuals involved, SH’s should be engaged in the planning and execution of the project – providing inputs to the decision-making process and even being allowed to make decisions where appropriate.
In summary, stakeholder management is vital and you do not have to be a PMI-RMP® exam candidate to appreciate that. The important thing to remember is that the stakeholders are not necessarily obstacles to the project goals; if treated properly, every one of them has the potential to contribute to the project’s success. You just need to recognize what they can contribute and tap into that potential.
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