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Getting online to engage with stakeholders #giveitago

One of the most positive results of the Government’s ‘digital by default’ agenda is the way it’s inspiring public sector organisations to experiment with Cloud software. Freed from the restrictions of on-premise solutions, public employees are discovering how simple it is to try out cloud software services and just ‘give it a go’.

A key opportunity emerging from this environment is one of improving stakeholder engagement for the better. At Kahootz, we’re finding that many organisations are trialling our cloud collaboration software because they want to reach out to more stakeholders, work more purposefully with them and involve them in an increasing range of projects.  
You can do so as well by experimenting with Kahootz free of charge. But before you do, we thought we’d share our 4-point checklist for engaging and working with stakeholders online.

Before we start… a quick word about workspaces

In this post we’ll be talking a lot about ‘workspaces’. These are secure, online areas where you, invited colleagues and stakeholders can work together.  
You can give workspace members access to a range of features, such as file sharing, project and task management tools, multi-author documents, quick polls and surveys, discussion forums, custom databases and more.  
So before you set up a workspace and invite stakeholders to collaborate with you, use this checklist to optimise it for the work you want to do with them. It’ll not only help you get the best out of the software, but will ensure your stakeholder engagement activities get off to a flying start.

1. Be clear about your purpose

The key to all effective stakeholder engagement is having a clear purpose from the outset – and online communities are no different. As you set up your online workspace, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your chief goals / objectives? For example, do you want stakeholders to comment on policy revisions, or do you need their help in drafting them?
  • Have you explained these to your stakeholders? Do stakeholders know why you’re engaging with them and what’s in it for them? Is it clear to them what they can contribute, and how? The more clear stakeholders are about your goals, the more valuable their contribution will be.
  • Do they understand how their contributions will be valued? Do stakeholders know how their feedback and suggestions will be used? Will they help you shape a policy or  deliver project milestones? Do they expect you and others to interact with them in the workspace (such as in a discussion forum), or for you to gather their feedback (as in a survey)?

By setting out a clear purpose at the outset, it gives stakeholders confidence – so why not  #giveitago today?

2. Get the right balance of stakeholders

One of the great advantages of using Kahootz to engage stakeholders is that it allows you to reach a wider variety of people. This brings breadth and purpose to your engagement activities, especially if you answer these questions as you recruit them:

  • Who needs to be involved beyond the ‘famous few’? Now that the logistical restraints caused by meeting venue cost, travel time and diary co-ordination have been effectively removed, are there additional stakeholders who you would normally find hard to involve? Ask your core stakeholders who else will bring value to the engagement process.
  • Will the membership you have created help to achieve your goals? Ask whether you have recruited sufficient breadth and numbers for your purpose. For example, if you’re making changes to local parking facilities, have you invited residents, businesses, schools, police and all relevant stakeholders to contribute?
  • Do you need to segment stakeholders into sub-group teams? If your engagement activities are complex, you may need to subdivide them into different teams, with access to relevant information and feedback mechanisms. For example, if you are an NHS Trust creating new care proposals, you may want to create teams focusing separately on in-patient and out-patient care.

Getting the right balance of stakeholders makes engagement more purposeful, and delivers better results – and encourages them to use the software in the future too. Why not #giveitago for yourself?

3. Create a clear plan for workspace governance

A well-administered workspace with empowered users is key to effective online stakeholder engagement. Addressing these three questions will make it happen.  

  • Who will manage and facilitate the workspace? Many of the management functions in a Kahootz workspace are automated – for example, users can receive automatic updates when new material is uploaded or comments are added. But be sure to nominate at least one person to manage and facilitate the workspace, ensuring tasks are on track and stakeholder contributions help you meet your project objectives and outcomes.
  • How empowered will stakeholders be to add / modify content? A workspace can be used for everything from a simple discussion forum to a full project team-working environment. You can give stakeholders completely tailored access and privileges, allowing them to upload content, launch surveys, comment on documents, access folders and more. For greater engagement, give stakeholders privileges to participate as much as possible, while restricting access to confidential material.
  • Will you need to moderate discussions / feedback? A simple task, but one that needs to be planned for. If you allow stakeholders to take part in online discussions or give feedback on documents, will you need to moderate their contributions? If so, nominate colleagues to take care of this task – or even invite trusted stakeholders to do so.

A clear plan for managing your workspace keeps your engagement activities on track, and encourages more stakeholders to join in. Try it for yourself – access your free trial Kahootz workspace and #giveitago.

4. Choose appropriate tools for stakeholder activity

When you’ve got the right purpose, stakeholders and management processes in place, make sure you give stakeholders access to the most appropriate tools for the tasks in hand. This is how you can do it.

  • What mix of collaboration, consultation and information tools might you need to use? Kahootz has a wide range of tools, suitable for informing, consulting and collaborating with stakeholders. If you are inviting comments on an investment plan, you might want to introduce discussion boards and online surveys. If you’re working with stakeholders to create that plan, document co-authoring, team diaries, task assignment and team management tools might be needed. To match the right tools to your purpose, see our post on Managing stakeholder engagement using digital tools.
  • At which point of your project would it be appropriate to introduce each tool? You can add new collaborative functions to workspaces whenever you choose, so plan what will be needed at which stage. If you initially want to gather feedback from stakeholders, use features like discussion boards and surveys at the outset. If you use that feedback to create proposals, then introduce features like document co-authoring to help stakeholders refine those proposals.
  • How will you stimulate contributions and reward participation? The more active a workspace, the more it stimulates stakeholders to get involved. Set up the workspace to ensure users are updated when new material is added, or comments are made. With the right tools for the right purpose, stakeholders really benefit from a ‘digital by default’ approach to stakeholder engagement. It also allows you to reach new audiences and involve stakeholders in more areas of your work – simply and cheaply.

You can start using a Kahootz free trial workspace today – why not #giveitago now?

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