07 Dec 2021

A 101 guide to project stakeholder management

Project stakeholder management
A 101 guide to project stakeholder management

Unhappy stakeholders can derail even the best-managed projects. That’s why it’s so essential to build solid project stakeholder management skills.

The newly released 2021 AIPM/KPMG Project Management Survey Report highlights two key factors that make complex programs successful. First, active and robust leadership with a clear vision. A close second, strong collaboration and stakeholder management.

This 101 guide to project stakeholder management explains what it is, how to do it, what trends are emerging and some tips for managing challenging stakeholders.
 

What is project stakeholder management?

Project stakeholder management is the process of developing and cultivating great relationships with your stakeholders, the people who have an interest in your project (such as executives, managers, suppliers, or customers).

An important part of managing them is being able to engage with them effectively, using high-level communication techniques and consultation practices. Negotiation and compromise are key to building positive working relationships leading to better project outcomes.

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Trends in project stakeholder management

In 2021, the shift to remote working made managing collaboration even more critical. Project managers turned to technology to collaborate with team members, stakeholders, and decision makers.

Microsoft products are leading the way in this arena. Teams and SharePoint are the most popular tool used to collaborate with stakeholders and sponsors.
 

What are the benefits of having engaged stakeholders?

Stakeholders want to feel heard. Having an effective stakeholder engagement strategy can lead to many benefits.

  1. Better internal and external relationships: understanding the points of view of various stakeholders helps you build strong working relationships.

  2. Better knowledge and insights: engaged stakeholders are more likely to information that can help the project be more successful.

  3. Better planning and decision making: with more information, you’ll enhance your ability to plan and make good decisions.

  4. Better project outcomes: considering stakeholders’ opinions can avoid conflict and roadblocks and lead to time and cost benefits.


Techniques to manage project stakeholders

A stakeholder management plan is a great place to start. It’s a document that outlines how the project team plans to manage stakeholders’ expectations, needs, and communication requirements throughout the project.

This stakeholder engagement strategy diagram will help to create your plan as it lists ways to analyse your stakeholders, create alignment and engage with them clearly and concisely throughout the project.

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In a previous blog article, we also described how to draft a stakeholder communication plan to ensure stakeholders are kept informed at each stage of the project in the most effective way.

You can engage with stakeholders in via Teams meetings or presentations, video recordings, or interactive dashboards. The important thing is to have a well-considered plan that ensures you’re sharing information that identifies their needs, expectations and concerns, and that information is easy for them to find and understand.  
 

Tips for dealing with difficult stakeholders

You’ll inevitably come across challenging stakeholders throughout your career. Using stakeholder management techniques will help you win their support, get better results and make your life a whole lot easier. Here are our top tips.

  1. Don’t get emotional: sometimes negotiations can get heated. Even if your stakeholder is becoming angry or upset, keep your cool to help diffuse the situation and maintain your professionalism.

  2. Be respectful and empathetic: make sure you treat different stakeholder groups with equal respect, regardless of their stance. Being respectful and empathetic can help avoid issues escalating.

  3. Ask questions and listen: it’s amazing how often people just want to feel heard. They may be far more understanding when things don’t go their way if they feel like you’ve at least considered their position.

  4. Use a personalised approach: don’t treat everyone the same. Work out their communication needs and preferences and target your approach.

  5. Make sure your stakeholders understand: stakeholders can have differing communication needs and misunderstandings can cause conflict. Be inclusive and accommodate the needs of all stakeholders.


Treat stakeholders as partners

An astute respondent in the 2021 AIPM/KPMG Project Management Survey rightly said: “Project managers need to work in partnership with stakeholders to deliver benefits and to avoid treating projects and programs as a mere transaction.”
 

“Project managers need to work in partnership with stakeholders to deliver benefits and to avoid treating projects and programs as a mere transaction.”

A respondent in the 2021 AIPM/KPMG Project Management Survey



We couldn’t agree more. For project success, in addition to ensuring the project’s objectives and benefits are at the forefront of delivery, project managers need to ensure that stakeholders are fully engaged.
 

Want to work on your project stakeholder skills?

High-performing project professionals are lifelong learners. By accessing professional development to hone their core project management skills, they stay at the top of their fields and access the best career opportunities. If you’d like to brush up on your project stakeholder management skills or upskill your team, check out our mentoring program or leadership workshops.


project manager self assessment quiz