As organisations increasingly turn to online methods to engage stakeholders, they’re faced with a plethora of different collaboration tools with the potential to help them. Social media, online polls, e-consultation software, wikis, RSS feeds, email alerts – all these and many others have the power to transform stakeholder engagement for the better.
But with so many tools available, where do you start? How do you choose the right ones for your needs?
In our free guide, Transforming Public Sector Stakeholder Engagement, we show that there are crucial preparatory steps you need to take before you can select the right stakeholder engagement tools for your purpose.
In a nutshell, your first step is to analyse who your stakeholders actually are. A good way to do this is to create a stakeholder mapping grid, such as the one below (which has been adapted from one published by the NHS Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group).
As you can see, stakeholders fall into four groups, which determine how you’re likely to need to engage with them – based on their level of influence/interest, and on whether you need to inform, consult or collaborate with them (or a combination of the three).
You will find detail on how to create a matrix of this kind in the guide, but once you’ve made one you can then map it to a range of collaboration tools that can boost stakeholder engagement with each group.
As you can see, this process allows you put stakeholder collaboration tools into context, based on the purpose you want to achieve. There are significant advantages to doing this:
- You don’t rely on the same tools, regardless of their suitability. Some organisations will instinctively fall back on the tools they are used to, regardless of whether they are the best ones for the purpose. Mapping them out beforehand allows you to make an objective decision on which tools best fit your strategy.
- It keeps your focus on your stakeholders. Before selecting any tool, you have to ask yourself what you aim to achieve with it – and whether there are better alternatives available.
- It cuts down on the amount of software you use. Stakeholder engagement tools can be highly productive, but if you and your colleagues end up using dozens of different software packages it has negative implications for cost, training and keeping track (and measuring) what you achieve. Deciding in advance on the tools you need allows you to be more strategic about the software packages you use – for example, you might choose software that allows you to handle all social media channels in one place, or online collaboration software that combines project management, publishing, sharing and consultation tools.
This last point is particularly important. However, choosing software packages with the right combination of tools for your needs isn’t always easy. For example, you might decide that online collaboration software like Kahootz can help you because it offers a combination of tools such as project management software, multi-author documents, integrated social media and RSS feeds, discussion forums, surveys, quick polls and more.
But that’s only part of the story. You then need to step back and ask questions like:
- Is it scalable? How many internal and external users can use the system?
- Is it flexible? Can I use it for different purposes, and to engage different groups of stakeholders?
- How can it be accessed? Can colleagues and stakeholders use it from any location or device, or does it have to be locked behind an organisational firewall?
- Is the system easy to use? Or will I have to invest in training for both staff and stakeholders (which may well render the choice too complicated and expensive).
- How much does it cost? If you are using a system to engage stakeholders, the number of users you will need will fluctuate. Do you pay per user, or are you locked into usage bands of 50, 100 or 1,000 users or more?
So, once you’ve mapped the relevant tools to your stakeholders, and you’ve looked around for software that can best help you, be sure to ask suppliers questions like these.
To assist you in doing this, you may also wish to download our guide – 10 questions to ask an online collaboration supplier. It’s a quick and simple read, but it could easily give you the information you need to avoid making an expensive mistake when choosing stakeholder engagement tools.