Stakeholder management is an important aspect of any project. Most projects you work on will involve multiple shareholders, and each one potentially has the ability to speed up, slow down or completely obstruct your progress. Stakeholders may not be in the driving seat, but they can be extremely useful advocates, sponsors and agents of change.
What you may not appreciate, however, is just how deep the benefits of effective stakeholder management can run. Often, the process of managing stakeholders is viewed by project managers as a form of risk management. After all, keeping shareholders happy and meeting their expectations will certainly reduce the risk of negative influences affecting your project. Therefore, this view is not inaccurate, but it does perhaps over-simplify the issue.
Good stakeholder management will not only clear the path of potential obstructions, it will actively support swift progress and ultimately improve the quality of the results your deliver. It's not simply a case of keeping stakeholders happy - it’s also about using their time, expertise and influence to help you reach your goals.
Understanding this is arguably what separates the very best project managers from the average performers. In a 2013 post based on The Project Management Book by Richard Newton, Elizabeth Harrin's project management blog highlighted the less obvious benefits of stakeholder management:
In his book, Newton points out that tapping into the skills and knowledge of engaged stakeholders can effectively give project managers access to a host of additional resources, at no extra host.
Increased perception of success
Good management of stakeholders throughout a project should ensure they view the project in a positive light, regardless of the actual outcome. Newton explains that stakeholders whose expectations have been carefully managed over the duration "are far likelier to perceive a project as a success than those who have been ignored".
Smoother handover process
It's much easier to hand over the deliverables to someone who already knows a bit about them and has been aware of the project's development. Stakeholders who have been managed effectively will be more prepared to take the reins when your project reaches its conclusion.
It’s clear that stakeholder management supports successful project delivery in many ways. However, it's not always easy for project managers to keep every stakeholder informed and engaged, particularly in a scenario where stakeholders span several organisations and multiple locations. In these cases, many project managers choose to carry out online stakeholder management, using the latest collaboration tools to keep the wider working community engaged with their progress.
Collaboration software is an effective tool for supporting stakeholder management on all kinds of projects, particularly when there may be difficulties in bringing all the participants together for meetings or conference calls. A sense of community develops rapidly because each member can create a simple public profile that includes a photo, information about their organisation and contact details. Project managers can then use the tool for cloud stakeholder management however they want - keeping stakeholders up to date on progress, seeking consultation and feedback, and tapping into their additional resource base when required.