In our post ‘What digital stakeholder channels do I need?’ we looked at how you could map digital channels to different groups of stakeholders - helping you choose the right ones to inform, consult and collaborate with them.
Our analysis showed that there is a bewildering array of digital channels out there, from RSS feeds, online surveys and Twitter, to team management software, wikis, online document review tools and Internet diaries. You may have made a list of web applications you need for your engagement work, and been surprised by the number you require.
However, when you analyse the available channels more closely, you’ll see that they arrange themselves into a number of categories. Thinking about them in this way makes it easier to match them to the main types of stakeholder engagement, as shown in the diagram below.
You will find there is overlap – some categories of channels will help you engage with stakeholders in one, two or all three ways. But by understanding which categories you want to use, it’s easier to choose software packages to deliver the digital tools you need. Let’s take a closer look at them.
1. Social Media Channels
Social media channels like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are free to use, and can be managed and operated from their own websites.
Alternatively, you can use a range of third-party software to administer these accounts. For example, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are popular, free tools for managing Twitter accounts.
However, as you’ll see, social media channels are increasingly integrated into a wide range of software platforms, making standalone social media tools unnecessary for many purposes.
2. Publishing platforms
Web pages, blogs and wikis all require some form of publishing platform. Popular options for websites and blogs include free software like Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla and Blogger. These also have RSS feeds built into them, which you can also supplement with RSS management software like Feedburner.
Alternatively, there are plenty of proprietary solutions out there, which you can tailor to your needs. The drawback with this is that it can get expensive - you’re paying to use the system itself, as well as modifying it for your requirements.
You also have to ask how well these platforms complement other digital tools you need for engaging stakeholders. We’ll look closely at this later in this post.
3. File sharing
File sharing is a simple way to exchange documents, spreadsheets and image files etc. If you want to share files with stakeholders based in different locations, you will need to use a cloud-based file sharing solution.
There are plenty of free or cheap file sharing options out there - from Dropbox, which operates on a shared folders principle, to YouSendit, which allows you to exchange very large files that can’t be sent by email.
While useful, these software packages have limitations. For example:
- They don’t have built-in tools such as word processing or spreadsheet software, which can make it difficult to work on files on the move or share them with external stakeholders
- You may not be provided with an audit trail, so you won’t know who has worked on which document, or when
- You won’t receive an automatic email notification when a file has been changed
- Although you can comment within files, you are unlikely to be able to comment on them – except by non-integrated methods such as email
- Access privileges may be basic or non-existent – meaning you will have to set up an array of separate shared folders for different groups of users (and may end up duplicating files as a result)
- Software security may not be of a high enough standard for public sector use.
As you can see, for the purposes of engaging stakeholders and sharing information, a more comprehensive solution is needed.
4. Consultative channels
There are many tools that allow you to consult with stakeholders, including online surveys, specialist e-consultation software, discussion forums, polls and more.
Once again, it doesn’t make sense to source and use individual tools for these purposes. Instead you need - for economy and efficiency - to centralise your consultation activity by choosing a consolidated software package.
However, be wary. There is software available that does a good job of integrating these functions; and some are even promoted as stakeholder management software. But in many cases these solutions are weak when it comes to two of the most important aspects of stakeholder engagement - project management and collaboration. We’ll be looking at these tools next - and you’ll soon see it doesn’t make sense to buy separate software for your consultation activities.
5. Project management and collaboration tools
Project management tools range from simple To Do lists to sophisticated Gantt charts with management of critical paths and task dependencies.
They allow you to create task lists, assign tasks, track progress, create team diaries and more. And today, cloud-based project management tools allow you and stakeholders to participate from wherever you have an internet connection – from your PC to your mobile.
Once again, the problem for stakeholder work is that popular project management packages tend to be weak in other areas you need – including content collaboration, information publishing and consultative feedback functions.
Bringing your channels together
While there’s no software package that can act as a magic bullet for all your stakeholder work, some offer significantly more tools and functions than others. By bringing as many of them into a single system, you can link all areas of your work as shown in the pyramid - allowing you to connect stakeholder engagement that’s designed to inform, consult and collaborate.
For that reason, many public sector organisations are turning to a solution that integrates as many as these channels as possible, within one system.
Online collaboration software - made for stakeholder engagement
Kahootz cloud collaboration software has been designed with public sector use in mind, meaning it has been shaped and adapted as real-world organisations have used it for improving their stakeholder activities.
Because it’s designed to bring people together with a shared purpose and context, it’s ideal for informing, consulting and collaborating with stakeholders.
It allows you to instantly bring any stakeholder into one or more shared workspaces – whether for a project, as part of a permanent team, or in a partnership or shared service initiative.
You can share files, and have the tools to work on them from any internet enabled advice. Integrated project management tools allow you to collaborate across boundaries and chart progress. Archived file versions and an audit trail help you track who has worked on which files and when. Built-in publishing facilities allow you to generate blog posts, web pages and wikis. And you can disseminate information using RSS feeds and social media.
You can also create workspaces for any purpose – to gather information via consultative tools like questionnaires and polls; to develop policy by contributing to the same version of a single document; to build shared resources using databases; to gather feedback and comments on published documents; and to source feedback using discussion boards.
The big advantage is that Kahootz fits round the ways you want to engage stakeholders – you don’t have to source separate tools each time you want to work with stakeholders in a different way.
Choosing the right online collaboration software
In this short blog post it’s impossible to offer a detailed breakdown of what Kahootz online collaboration can do for your public sector organisation.
However, we have put together a series of guides that can help you put it to use effectively. Please help yourself to copies and share the links with interested colleagues.
- For a fuller overview of collaboration software, read
How to Collaborate Online: a Public Sector Guide
- For help in choosing the right package, download
Choosing the Right Collaboration Tool for your Public Sector Organisation
- For insight into digital tools, get
Transforming Public Sector Stakeholder Engagement.
And if you’d like to learn more about how other public sector organisations have used Kahootz to engage stakeholders, please get in touch. We have many examples and case studies we can share with you.