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Understand and analyze

Immediately after identifying a new stakeholder, you should start thinking about it and answer basic questions such as the following:

  • How can they impact our project? How much power do they have in doing so?
  • What do they feel about the project? Do they have an overall positive or negative feeling toward you?
  • What do they expect from the project? What makes them happy about you and what makes them mad?
  • Etc.

When you wonder about those questions, you will also come up with a plan for how to engage those stakeholders and gain their support. When doing so, remember that your plan must be justifiable: The effort you put into engaging the stakeholder should be less than what you gain from their support. To be more precise, this also has to be higher than your opportunity cost; i.e., more valuable than other things you can do instead.

The only thing that can override the justification is the ethical aspects. For example, you may be going to renovate a house and realize that the only neighbour is an old lady who may not know that she can contact the city hall and complain about inappropriate noise. So, the impact is low, but does it mean that you should feel free to make noise day and night? Of course not.

After extracting information about stakeholders and planning how to work with them, you need to document the information for future use. Your methodology may have a specific artifact for it with a name such as stakeholder register. Otherwise, it may be part of a more general artifact in your methodology, or simply left to you to decide. If you need to have a stakeholder management system that is more serious than the average, you probably need to separate the list and create a register for your stakeholders.

When planning how to engage stakeholders, think about these two points:

  • Flow of information from you to them: We usually have to inform them of the project and keep them up to date. This is necessary because they may have concerns for certain aspects that won’t come up until they realize such aspects exist in the project. As usual, the sooner we find out about those things, the easier and less expensive it is to do something about them. Withdrawing information may seem like a solution to some people, but it’s too risky, as well as being unethical, and for this reason should be avoided.
  • Flow of information from them to you: You need to understand what they expect from the project. When possible, ask them for their opinion instead of waiting for them to come to you. Use creative ways that makes this communication more effective.

The form of communication should be selected based on the individual situation:

  • Depending on the type of stakeholder, it needs to be formal or informal.
  • It can be pull or push communication; e.g., an online dashboard that people can visit any time they want is “pull” communication, whereas a report you send to them is “push” information. Pull communications may require less work, but you should make sure that they remain effective and people don’t forget about them.
  • There can be different mediums for communication; emails, printed reports, face-to-face meetings, etc. Some forms require more effort but also have the potential to be more effective in certain situations.
Next: Prioritize