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Stakeholder management and the importance for projects

Stakeholder management and the importance for projects 15.06.2018 - Stakeholder management is still one of the most important methods in project management today. The origin of the method is unclear, but it is clear that stakeholder management is an important component of the training courses for all certifications for project managers, including those of the IAPM training partners.
Stakeholder management is defined as the handling and analysis of the various needs and interests of all project participants. The various interest groups include not only customers, donors and investors, but also politicians, neighbours, local residents, the press, nature conservation associations, associations or other groups of people who are affected by the project in any way and who could have an influence on the project. This influence can of course be positive or negative. Both options must be considered within the framework of stakeholder management and the possible consequences for the project must be determined. Stakeholder management also largely includes influencing these various external influences. This means that project management should ideally reinforce the positive influences and minimize the negative ones. Stakeholder management must be carried out throughout the entire project, because the interests of those involved can change during the course of a project, become stronger or even appear at a much later point in time. Therefore, stakeholder management for project managers means the targeted identification, analysis, monitoring and control of the interests of external groups of people.

Use of stakeholder management
Stakeholder management should be regarded as a project-accompanying and cross-project process. During the planning phase, the stakeholders are usually identified for the first time. This serves as a basis for future regular analyses of the situation. One focus is on identifying potential opponents of the project. Anyone who could put obstacles in the way of the project in a certain function must be considered in detail. These conflicting interests could cause disruption or even a project stoppage and therefore a stakeholder who has the opportunity to harm the project needs to be scrutinised more closely. All interests are to be taken seriously. As a project manager, one should try to put oneself in the position of all participants and propose solutions for potential conflicts that create a win-win situation so that all participants benefit. Of course, it is never possible to please everyone in the final analysis. The more stakeholders show interest in a project, the more difficult the analysis becomes and the more likely it is that not everyone is enthusiastic about the project. Stakeholder prioritisation is therefore also important and must be reviewed regularly. After all, it is possible that a stakeholder who opposed the project at the beginning may later behave neutrally or even positively towards the project, after being offered a solution, while a dissenting voice is only heard from another camp later in the course of the project.

Advantages and disadvantages of a detailed stakeholder analysis
The advantage of a stakeholder analysis is that the results can be included in the risk analysis and thus make it easier to describe the project goals more precisely. Potential opponents of a project can be identified early on and possibly their resistance can be kept within limits or even completely fended off by suitable measures. This prevents damage from the project. Another advantage is that supporters of the respective project can be identified and specifically involved. The disadvantages and risks of stakeholder management, especially in the case of really extensive projects, include the high amount of time that a stakeholder analysis entails, which can mean an effort for the project team that should not be underestimated.

Goals and results
Comprehensive stakeholder management requires social skills and good communication skills. In order to carry out the stakeholder analysis, the scope of the project must at least be roughly defined. As a result, a list of the individual stakeholders can be expected. This is the basis for an analysis of their interests and possibilities to influence the project. These elements are followed by a list of measures to be taken to appease or convert opponents of the project and to involve supporters and exploit their positive influences. This analysis should provide usable information for the subsequent risk analysis. Many project managers like to develop stakeholder analysis in a team. Various programs with list functions are suitable for managing the results and measures.

Steps of stakeholder analysis
  • Identification of the individual stakeholders (who can have what influence on the project? What are the interests? What effects can be expected?)
  • Stakeholder analysis (evaluation of potential positive and negative impacts on the project, prioritisation)
  • Development of a catalogue of measures to contain the negative and increase the positive influences
  • Determining the ways of communication with the individual stakeholders (monthly briefings or meetings, information material, personal meetings, circulars, finding compromises...)

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