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Why your project management tool should support stakeholder management

You’re using a collaboration tool for project management in the cloud. The tool is set up so that everyone working on the project can easily communicate online, share documents and access central resources – from anywhere, using any connected device. And that’s all you need, right?

Not quite. You can’t afford to ignore the people who have in interest in your project’s success – the stakeholders. This means every person who is involved in some way with your organisation (although not necessarily in an official capacity), who may be affected by the decisions it makes and can influence the implementation of those decisions.

In the public sector, each organisation has a huge number of potential stakeholders. Stakeholder management will therefore play a major role in determining the success of your project: how quickly it can be delivered and how easy it is to overcome unforeseen obstacles. So you need a project management tool that helps you to manage stakeholder relationships, not just the people involved in the day-to-day work.

In basic terms, the collaboration software you choose must be a project management tool and a stakeholder management tool. But what does that mean exactly?

Well, for effective project management you’re likely to need the suite of functions we’ve already referred to – workspace dashboards, task lists for groups and individuals, file sharing, shared group calendars. But a collaboration tool that can also support successful stakeholder management must offer all of these – and more.

To understand why, consider the fact that stakeholder relationships can be complex. With such a wide range of different stakeholders, particularly in the public sector, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to working with them. Different types of stakeholder have different needs, levels of influence and expectations.

The purpose of stakeholder management

In our guide Transforming Stakeholder Engagement: Effective Digital Channels, we use a stakeholder mapping grid (based on details from a report by the NHS Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group) to show how an organisation’s stakeholders can typically be categorised in one of four groups. Their relationship to the project is then considered in terms of both their influence and the strength of their interest in the outcome.

From this analysis, we can extract four main ways that the organisation will need to manage its stakeholder relationships:

1. Keep stakeholders informed
(low interest, low influence)

2. Involve/consult with stakeholders
(high interest, low influence)

3. Engage powerful stakeholders
(low interest, high influence)

4. Collaborate with stakeholder partners
(high interest, high influence)

Establishing the purpose of each interaction with stakeholders is therefore the key to successfully managing this aspect of the project. Once the organisation understands this, it can select the most appropriate digital channels to achieve the desired effect. And this is where that project management tool that is also a stakeholder management tool comes in.

For example, think about the first group of stakeholders we identified – low interest, low influence. These people need to be kept informed of progress, but their involvement is unlikely to extend much further. For this purpose, tools like public web pages, RSS feeds and social media updates will be sufficient to broadcast updates and handle occasional queries. But now consider the second group. These stakeholders have a strong interest, but a low level of influence (for example, local residents affected by a proposal to build a new road in their town). The tools required for successful engagement with them will therefore be different – perhaps online surveys and feedback forms that allow them to share their views, or a discussion forum and a formal e-consultation to collect feedback.

There are many ways to engage with and manage stakeholders digitally, but that doesn’t mean you need to deploy several tools. In fact, using a number of different solutions to achieve the same outcome will make managing your stakeholder relationships more difficult. With a cloud stakeholder management tool, all the functionality you require is bundled together.

For more on how to build stakeholder management capabilities within your project management tool, download our free guide:

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