Successful project management

Part 2 „The Stakeholder Analysis“

Welcome back to the blog series „Successful Project Management“ – this time, as announced, about stakeholder analysis.

Stakeholder analysis is one of the most essential activities/methods in the pre-project phase, we highlighted that last time. Stakeholder analysis means that you deal with the question (well ahead of time!) as to what people or groups of people and/or institutions influence your project or have a stake in it. And that you carefully consider the next steps based upon that.

Step by step through the stakeholder analysis process

First of all, you collect all the relevant stakeholders. Just grab a flipchart and start writing, ideally with the project team.

It could look like this, for example (you may remember this diagram of a simple example, „moving house“ from the last blog entry, “As you sow, so you shall reap!”:

The more stakeholders are involved in the project, the more important it is to structure it. This is necessary to retain an overview and, in the following, to be able to create the right measures and risk strategies for the respective sub-groups.

Now identify the synergetic and conflicting relationships. In doing so, concentrate on the most important stakeholders. Next, put the identified relationships into your stakeholder chart. It’s remarkable how often IT is regarded as a critical stakeholder. It’s probably because IT plays a role in almost every project nowadays, and therefore also represents a bottleneck resource.

And don’t forget that the project organisation itself is also a stakeholder, and integrate it into the chart. Why? I’ll answer using a very specific case from my experience, in which the project leader hated the project, didn’t want the PL function, but got stuck with it nevertheless. Result: no motivation, poor project and team leadership, leading to conflicts within the team and unbelievable delays in project execution. The goals were only achieved after the project leader was replaced. This proves how essential project owner-backing is for the project.

A somewhat more complicated depiction could look like this:

The more precise, the better

In the next step, take a close look at the relationships between the project and the respective stakeholders. What are the reciprocal expectations, what potential do the stakeholders harbour, what conflicts could arise?

Based on these considerations, you develop strategies and measures to shape these relationships, to avoid conflicts, and make the best of the identified potentials.

Also define who will take care of things, and when that should happen. It doesn’t always have to be the project leader, by the way. 🙂

At the end of the day it boils down to your „social controlling.“

„Social controlling“ (controlling is a vital step in the project management processes, we will be coming back to this in a future blog) sounds a bit strange, I can hear you say. Yes, that may be so. But believe me, paying attention to interpersonal relationships and the expectations and needs of your stakeholders can make or break the success of your project.

I was once programme leader (among other things) in charge of an FTI programme that simply would not satisfy the external client with regard to the allocation of responsibilities. Agreements were also constantly watered down and changed from that side, and so on. (I could write a novel about it, I would call it „The Pursuit of Unhappiness in Project and Programme Management“) If we had carried out a thorough stakeholder analysis before accepting the job, we probably would have dropped that programme immediately.

On the other hand, there are many success stories I had the honour of coordinating, such as the EU projects MAP, StarMAP and DiscoMAP (cool names, aren’t they?) and which – among other things – were successful precisely because of excellent relationship management.

The bottom line: the social, relationship component is extremely important, you can read more about this in blog articles by successful EU project managers that we published in 2018. Here is Part 1, and here is Part 2. And of course this not only applies to EU projects!

So, and how did you fare? We’re looking forward to hearing all about it from you!

Sincerely, Birgit