What do your stakeholders value most about your current project? If you don’t answer this critical project management question correctly, you may waste a significant amount of time “selling” the benefits of a project to people who aren’t interested and generating deliverables that no one wants. The fact is that each group of stakeholders may assess the value of a project differently. Understanding this reality and honing your communication strategy accordingly can lead to fuller cooperation during your project and greater satisfaction with the results.
The answer to this question will vary depending on who your stakeholders are as well as the size and scope of the project. Below are some generalities that may give you an idea of how to structure your communication scheme. Please note that the following are just a few of the stakeholders who might be involved in a project in a wide cross-section of industries. Specific industries might have additional, specialized stakeholder groups. For example, an IT consulting project could also include stakeholders involved in licensing as well as those from the software company providing the application(s) to the end customer; and a larger organization might have a portfolio manager in addition to individual project managers.
End Customer. The greatest value you can demonstrate in a project is whatever aspects solve the customer’s current problem and addresses their pain points. However, don’t forget to focus on the future as much as the present. Take every opportunity to highlight how the project will put the customer in a position to proactively seek success – not just avoid failure.
Sales Rep/Account Management. The highest value in a project for these stakeholders lies in how it affects the quality of relationships with the customer. Sales and Account Management personnel are responsible for the long term relationship of the client and will be most interested in communication that allows them to give good news to the client or head off conflict. They balance client relationship management with pursuing potential growth opportunities. Focus your communication on celebrating milestones achieved and pointing out potential roadblocks that could jeopardize the customer’s goals.
Third Party Vendors/Subcontractors/Partners. These stakeholders often value the dimension of a project that may bring follow-on business. Be sure to highlight the continued relationship that may grow from the project to ensure the best possible service from vendors. Communicate regularly, but not too frequently, in a way that requires a response. This ensures vendors remain actively engaged and give your project the attention it deserves.
Team Members. Individual team members typically value the ability of a project to give them a chance to showcase their skills and potentially advance their careers. A well-motivated team may see particular value in the ways a current project differs from past projects because these areas provide an opportunity to grow. Don’t be afraid to communicate with these stakeholders about problems, this gives them a chance to come up with a solution that makes them feel autonomous and empowered.
Regulatory and Compliance. The greatest value you can demonstrate for these stakeholders is in the way the project can address current non-compliance issues or improve quality control processes going forward. Pay special attention to how quality, licensing, certification and accreditation and other legal concerns are being addressed. Remember that no news isn’t necessarily good news; instead it might raise suspicions of hidden problems that are simply being ignored. Send regular updates about compliance topics so these stakeholders feel at ease that you are staying on top of things.
Executives. High-level internal stakeholders typically value projects based on how they impact the company’s position in relation to competitors in the market and how the results affect near and long term earnings. Give substantial detail up front when communicating with this stakeholder, but keep ongoing reporting to a minimum and never include extraneous information.
In almost every case, the easiest way to determine what stakeholders value most is to ask. Be sure to do this at the very outset. The answers you collect should guide the development and implementation of each aspect of your project. Not everyone will be able to articulate what they want if you simply ask them what they think is important. Therefore, you may have to dig a little and read between the lines to uncover the information you need.
Stay tuned for my upcoming blog on the right questions to ask yourself when identifying project stakeholders.