The value of early stakeholder engagement in a project

Never underestimate the value of early stakeholder engagement to a project.
I realised this week how easy it is to overwork, under work, go off on the wrong tangent, not do what is really needed etc., in delivering a project just because you don’t engage the right stakeholders early enough in your project.

In previous posts I have discussed the value of good communication, and of creating what I call ‘the one team‘ mentality, this post ties in with those.

The value of early engagement is a smoother and easily run project, where the change is well managed.

How often have you been working with the SME’s for your project where you think you’ve got all the connection points in the process you are replacing identified and scoped, then out of the blue you are told “oh yeah, there is this other group who, we’re not sure what they really do, but they are involved somehow too!.”

This then creates difficulties for you, whereas if you’d been able to take a deep breath, give the business that little bit more time to review your process maps (assuming of course you’ve bothered to develop them),  and work with you to develop their detailed requirements this may not have happened.

Mapping a process is invaluable for finding these invisible stakeholders.

In documenting the process map it starts to take form but just doesn’t look right (to the business), and that’s when your invisible will become visible, because there’s another branch of the process that know one really knew or understood.  That’s when this area is identified, and called out allowing for the full end to end process to be understood.  Through this process you then find that you have another key stakeholder identified for your project.

Interestingly the other value of mapping the process is that it is often something that is done at the start of a project.  This then means that you identify and have all of your key stakeholders involved from the start .

When this occurs you then have more meaningful dialogue, not only from the projects perspective, but also between the key stakeholders themselves.  It helps them to realise their dependencies or inter-dependencies by identifying key touch points and where their work overlaps, interlocks and just works together.

If this ‘mapping’ hasn’t taken place early enough, it is then key to start asking questions early.  Don’t be afraid to ask ‘Is this all of the areas/people/business units that need to be involved? You might be surprised at the response that you get when you think you’ve asked this enough times.

Once I’ve gotten to the point of identification of all of the stakeholders I find the developing a RACI showing who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted  and Informed useful,  as it helps me to identify who I need to be engaging with and in what way.

By doing a RACI it allows me to also understand the sort of communication, or should I say ‘level’ of communication that I need to have too, which ties in with the change management concept of good project management.

If you spend at least twice as much time engaging with your stakeholders as you do planning your project, you have a better chance of achieving success.


Written by Karen Munro