PM-Foundations – Performing Stakeholder Analysis

As a project manager, when I am assigned a new project I quickly dive into the “what” associated with the project.

What is the product we are building?

What is the scope of the project?

What is our budget?

What is the target date?

Equally important, but often overlooked, is the “who” component of the project. Performing stakeholder analysis early on during project initiation helps the project manager have a better understanding of who is interested in the project, who is impacted by the project, and who is going to help define and deliver the project. Having a better appreciation for these elements of the project helps the project manager develop a more purposeful approach to defining the project scope, budget, and timeline. Stakeholder analysis represents an effective technique to identify and assess the importance of key people, groups of people, or entities who can significantly influence or impact the project. Stakeholder analysis is generally performed once at the beginning of the project, but may be performed on a regular basis to track changes in stakeholder importance and influence/impact over time.

Purpose and Benefits of Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholder analysis is one of the first steps to understanding and level setting stakeholder expectations. It also represents an excellent opportunity to initiate engagement of key stakeholders in the project. Stakeholder analysis related discussions helps the team identify:

  • Who may affect or be affected by the project
  • Potential issues that could disrupt the project
  • Target audiences for information distribution during the planning and executing phases of the project
  • Groups that should be involved in different stages of the project
  • Ways to manage negative stakeholders

In addition, stakeholder analysis related discussions are utilized to start to build the relationship between the project manager and key stakeholders, providing the following benefits to the project:

  • Provide stakeholders the opportunity to express their ideas/issues/concerns related to the project (before the project “has left the train station”)
  • Establish a sense of accountability and/or responsibility for the project
  • Enable effective risk identification & response planning
  • Create an excellent learning opportunity for both the project manager and the stakeholders

Who are the stakeholders?

The different types of stakeholders can be represented like layers of an onion (see the diagram of sample stakeholders below). Stakeholders closer to the center represent the “primary” stakeholders that are directly involved in or impacted by the project. Stakeholders depicted in the outer layers of the diagram represent the “secondary” stakeholders that are indirectly involved in or impacted by the project.

The “key” stakeholders are the primary and secondary stakeholders that have significant influence or importance associated with the project. The goal of the stakeholder analysis is to identify and capture information about the “key” stakeholders associated with the project. It is critical to gain a good understanding of the people that are important and relevant to the project, but you also do not want to create an “analysis paralysis” situation by including too many potential stakeholders in the process. Some of the questions utilized to identify the right people to involve in the stakeholder analysis include:

  • Who will use the product being delivered by the project? Who will represent the needs of these users?
  • Who initiated this project? Is this person / group the project sponsor?
  • Who is paying for this project?
  • Who will be involved in defining, designing, building, and implementing this product?
  • Who will support this product after it is implemented?
  • Are there external entities impacted by or influencing this project?
  • Will this project negatively impact individuals or groups within the organization (e.g., changing job responsibilities, or loss of jobs)?

Information Captured During Stakeholder Analysis

The following represents the type of information captured about each of the individuals identified during the stakeholder analysis:

  • Stakeholder Name / Group: Who is the stakeholder? What is their title and/or role? Where does this role fit in the organization?
  • Stakeholder Type: Is the person a primary (direct) or secondary (indirect) stakeholder? Based upon their influence or importance related to the project, are they considered to be a “key” stakeholder?
  • Date Identified: When was this stakeholder initially identified? Knowing when a stakeholder was identified / involved in the project can be useful when assessing potential changes introduced throughout the project life cycle.
  • Stake: What does the stakeholder stand to gain or lose based upon completion of this project?
  • Commitment: What is the stakeholder’s priority for this project compared to other work? I keep this simple by assigning “high”, “medium” or “low”. Generally the stakeholder’s priority assigned to the project is directly related to the stake in the project. Commitment level translates into the amount of attention or time the stakeholder intends on spending on the project.
  • Impact on project: How critical is this stakeholder’s involvement in the project? A stakeholder may be critical to the success of the project, even though he/she has little stake in or commitment to the project (based upon their overall influence / importance within the organization).
  • Next Steps: What specific needs/issues does this stakeholder have related to this project (e.g., status reporting, approval of deliverables, involvement of specific resources)? How can these needs or issues be addressed during planning or execution of the project?

After capturing the stakeholder information, I will generally sort the stakeholders by type (key stakeholders), and stake in the project. Sorting the stakeholders in a particular order helps to identify specific actions required based upon the information captured within the stakeholder analysis. Below is an example of the stakeholder analysis template that I utilize to capture stakeholder information.

I also summarize the key stakeholders utilizing the following four box matrix.

 

Low Interest

High Interest

High Power / Importance

Project Funding Approval

Project Advisors / Mentors

Project Sponsors

Steering Committee Members

Core Team Members

Low Power / Importance

Not relevant to the project

Extended Project Team Members

Subject Matter Expertise

 

How is Stakeholder Analysis Used to Manage the Project?

After spending the time and energy to capture and document stakeholder information, it is critical that you actually “do something” with it. Below are some of the very tangible activities that I rely heavily on the stakeholder analysis to complete.

  • Identify/Form the Core Team – Who are the key contributors required for the project? The stakeholder analysis provides information required to identify the individuals with the right skills and experience to effectively contribute to the project. This process also helps identify individuals that have a high level of interest in being involved in the project (for a wide variety of reasons).
  • Identify/Form the Steering Committee – Who are the individuals that will guide / govern the project? The stakeholder analysis provides information required to identify the individuals with the appropriate influence and interest associated with the project to make timely and solid decisions to resolve issues, manage changes, and approve milestones – keeping the project moving in the right direction.
  • Identify Additional Resources – Who are the additional resources required to contribute to specific deliverables or phases during the project? Similar to the core team, the stakeholder analysis helps identify additional resources that are required to successfully complete specific deliverables or project phases (based upon particular skills, and/or interests in the project). Important resources that fall into this category are the subject matter experts (SMEs).
  • Identify Other Actions Required – Based upon information captured during the stakeholder analysis are there other actions or activities that should be built into the project plans? These may be actions required to address specific issues / concerns that the stakeholder has about the project, or specific requirements they would like to be addressed throughout the project life cycle (e.g., status updates).

Your comments are very much appreciated. When and how have you performed stakeholder analysis? What has been the impact of stakeholder analysis on the overall success of the project?

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PM-Foundations – That Will Leave a Mark

When working at clients the immediate goal is to meet or exceed the expectations of the engagement. As a project manager this is accomplished by effectively leading projects to successful project outcomes. While being recognized as a team for doing a good job is satisfying unto itself, the ultimate goal is to deliver and perform in a manner that leaves a lasting impression on the project management organization. This lasting impression is reflected in the consistency and effectiveness of the practices routinely used across projects, the ability to measure and report on project performance, and the quality and relevancy of project management processes and supporting project artifacts. In the context of managing projects, there are things you can do that to leave the project organization in a better place than when you arrived – leaving a mark that lives well beyond your time spent at the client.

5 Ways to Leave a Mark on the Project Office

Below are the 5 ways that I focus my energy and efforts during a project management engagement in an attempt to leave a lasting impression on the client’s Project Office/PM competency. Obviously, the level of impact/influence in some of these areas is highly dependent on the scope, length and visibility of your engagement.

1. Become Productive – Clients are often amazed at how quickly a project manager can ramp-up and productively contribute to a project. Quickly becoming productive on a project can be accomplished with limited or no domain knowledge associated with an industry, client, business process or technology. The time to ramp up on a project is largely dependent on the project manager’s experience / expertise, as well as their command of the core capabilities of a project manager. Effective project managers instinctively know how to approach a new project, and where to begin in terms of ramping up and starting to lead the team. Project offices that develop project managers that can ramp up and become productive quickly realize gains in time to market, as well as increase flexibility in terms of moving project managers from project to project. My first job at the assignment is to demonstrate this capability, and then work with the client to make it a core competency.

2. Model Best Practices – My company’s project management services are built around the idea that project management is a very mature competency with many available sources of knowledge, and yet companies still struggle with challenged or failed projects. We firmly believe that the implementation and consistent application of project management best practices is what differentiates successful projects from challenged projects. The more ingrained these best practices are in the project management culture, the lower the dependency on the talents and heroic efforts of individual team members. There are a “critical few” best practices areas that if performed well will significantly improve the team’s performance, as well as the project outcomes (identifying key stakeholders, facilitating the development of the WBS, creating a strong schedule and budget, managing change, and measuring performance to name a few). Throughout the project life cycle, I diligently perform / model these best practices as part of “doing my job” leading the project team. Just when you think nobody is watching, someone will surprise you and comment on how you handled a certain situation. It is in these moments that you know you are leaving a lasting impression on the client based upon the way you are modeling the effective application of the “critical few” best practices.

3. Proactively Mentor / Coach – Part of improving the overall project management competency within an organization is building a project management team that has the capability and desire to effectively apply the best practices in the context of completing “real” project work. I find that having a core of experienced and skilled project managers is a requirement to a strong best practice centric project management culture. Less experienced project managers can “lean on” the core of experienced project managers for professional development counseling, and advice on specific project situations. One of the most enjoyable aspects of consulting engagements is providing “free advice” to other project managers on how I have handled specific situations on other projects (again relying on the effective use of the “critical few” best practice areas). These mentoring opportunities help improve project results associated with the specific situation, and also influence the way that the project manager will handle situations in the future. Effective coaching and mentoring is often represented as “intangible”, but it is surprising the overall impact it can have on the project management competency within an organization.

4. Properly Close Projects – I spend a lot of time on my blog talking about effectively closing a project. The reason I am so passionate about this topic is that project closure is the point in time for project managers to identify / highlight the things done well or poorly during the project, and initiate the appropriate actions to ensure that these lessons learned are reflected in future project efforts. At the end of a project, many project managers are busy preparing for their next project or client, and miss this prime opportunity to leave a lasting impact on the client organization. Project closure starts with effectively shutting down project activities, validating all product deliverables are complete and key product issues closed, and smoothly transitioning resources to new roles. The second aspect of this best practice area is preparing the project closure report (also referred to as the post-project assessment). Creating the project closure report includes gathering input from key stakeholders, and identifying improvement actions to be implemented either as part of the closeout process or for future projects. These improvement actions can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the processes and tools regularly practiced within the project office.

5. Implement Continuous Improvement – As processes and tools are improved in the context of leading a project, the impact of the improvement is limited to a single project if it is not captured as a “standard” within the project office. Improvements may represent “filling a gap” in the project management processes, or an enhancement to an existing tool. In either case, it is important to ensure that the project office regularly captures and roll-outs these improvements across all projects. As a consultant it is usually pretty easy to introduce this practice, however it takes on-going demonstration and re-enforcement of the practice to “make it stick” – creating a culture of continuous improvement does not happen overnight.

Your comments are appreciated. How have you “left a mark” on the project management organization?