June 24, 2024

Brad Marolf

Business & Finance Wonders

Key Strategies for Successful Stakeholder Management 

Project management has a surprisingly high failure rate. Studies show that 70% of all projects fail. Of those that succeed, 62% report that they had supportive stakeholders.  

42% of companies worldwide do not understand the need for project management. Many invest in project management software and training, but it doesn’t improve outcomes. Ask five different companies why a project failed and you will get five different answers.  

Those that run projects successfully cite stakeholder management at the core of their success.  

It is generally assumed that stakeholders are investors and shareholders, but the definition is broader than that. A stakeholder is anyone who has an impact or is invested in the work you are doing.  

Managing them means maintaining good relationships. If they are happy, they will support your projects and increase the likelihood of success. 

Business analysts play an important role in managing stakeholders. They identify them, understand their needs, engage with them and manage conflict. A business intelligence analyst is trained to use data and information to provide useful insights that lead to positive outcomes on projects.  

The data that business intelligence analysts collect and analyze provides specific answers that help direct projects. One of their key roles is to collaborate with stakeholders and team members. With the analysis they provide, project managers can coordinate those who are invested and increase the likelihood of success. 

If you are considering becoming a business intelligence analyst, Marymount University offer an online Doctorate of Business Administration in Business Intelligence program. The course is 100% online, and the program is designed for working professionals. To become a business analyst, you need to have a head for numbers. The program aids students in their ability to analyze large troves of data and draw conclusions from it. You should also know about database management, statistical programming languages, machine learning and coding; skills that can also be developed on the course by Marymount University. 

It helps if you have a good grasp of stakeholder management. You should understand who a stakeholder is and why they need to be managed, as well as common strategies that are used to keep them happy and invested.  

What is stakeholder management, and why does it matter? 

In a nutshell, stakeholder management is the process of identifying, engaging and managing stakeholders. When done properly, it leads to positive project outcomes and the overall success of a business. 

The business analyst’s job is to understand stakeholder expectations and make sure that they are met.  

When stakeholders are engaged and managed properly, they contribute ideas, time and money to ensure success. They also provide important feedback that can be used to put a failing project back on the rails.  

There is a general assumption that to run a successful project, all that’s necessary is good project management software. While it plays an important role, most companies with failed projects confess to having invested a lot of money in this kind of software.  

They are puzzled when things go wrong because they don’t understand that to succeed, everyone who has a stake in the project must come together and work for a common goal.  

There are several reasons why stakeholder management should be at the core of every project: 

  • Everyone who is involved in the project understands what role they play and when they should play it. They also know what results they can expect. Responsibilities are clearly outlined and there are no overlaps.  
  • Stakeholder management outlines how team members ought to interact, with reporting lines clearly outlined. It also states expected outcomes so that everyone knows whether or not they are meeting the stated objectives.  
  • It establishes accountability. Everyone knows what they are answerable for, and how their work impacts the rest of the team. 
  • It gets buy-in, which is critical for project success. It is easier to achieve goals when everyone is on the same page.  
  • It provides an important feedback loop and mistakes can be fixed promptly. 

A commonly asked question is, when should a business intelligence analyst get involved? Should they wait for management to outline a project and then step in and bring stakeholders together, or should they be involved right from the beginning? 

The answer is that they should be involved in project planning right from the start. Their job is to collect and analyze data and information, and the feedback they generate is useful in every stage of project planning.  

What are the best stakeholder management strategies? 

It’s easy to assume that getting everyone in the room for a meeting is enough. If each person understands the project, the desired outcomes and their role in it, they can play their part, right? 

It’s not that simple, and that’s why business analysts rely on the following stakeholder management strategies.  

Understand who the stakeholders are 

There are two types of stakeholders, and one of the first things that a business intelligence analyst must do is understand who they are and how they will affect the project.  

Internal stakeholders are those who work within the business. They can include project managers, supervisors, the sales and marketing team, the compliance department, legal representatives and the board of directors.  

External stakeholders are those who do not work within the organization but have a significant impact on the project. They can include shareholders, sponsors, clients and suppliers, the union, contractors and even media.  

Identify their needs and special interests 

There are different ways to identify needs, and the methods that are used depend on who the stakeholders are. In some cases, a meeting will suffice.  

Where there is a large number of people to be consulted, the business intelligence analyst and project manager can use surveys, focus groups, or in-person reviews to determine stakeholder expectations.  

Develop a strategy to engage stakeholders 

The analyst should analyze the stakeholders to determine how best to communicate with them, and how to get them to collaborate. Some people, for example, are extremely busy and do not have time to go to meetings.  

In such a case, it is determined early in the project that the best way to loop them in would probably be to schedule quick weekly phone calls to update them and get their feedback.  

Some prefer to have long meetings where they are briefed and can ask questions.  

It is the job of the analyst, together with the project manager, to understand each of the stakeholders and the best way to keep them involved.  

Create goals and expectations for the project and each stakeholder 

This is time-consuming and should be done with care. By this stage, there is probably a general outline of what the project is and what it is expected to achieve.  

It is now time to refine those goals and objectives into finer points that clearly outline responsibilities.  

After each individual understands the overall goal and steps, it is time to let them know their specific roles and how they fit into the overall project.  

Each stakeholder gets to understand why what they are doing is important and how it affects others in the team. They are also briefed on timelines, deadlines and communication channels.  

Get feedback 

Are stakeholders happy with the roles they have been assigned, and do they have the necessary skills and equipment?  

Do they think that they can accomplish their roles within the stated timelines? Is there any other feedback they would like to provide that can help improve the overall outcome of the project? 

Gathering and analyzing feedback is important – it helps catch mistakes early, and stakeholders know that their contribution is appreciated. 

Understand the political, cultural and organizational politics that can affect your project 

We don’t live in a vacuum, and things that happen outside the organization affect whatever we are trying to do within it. The business analyst takes time to understand all the factors that can affect their project.  

They may be cultural factors, where certain things are considered unsuitable or unacceptable. A project can be impacted by the prevailing political or economic climate, or even the prevailing organizational culture. All of these factors are important in stakeholder management. 

Build strong relationships with stakeholders 

People participate when they feel valued, and one way to make them feel valued is to have open channels of communication. 

It is now time to get to know the stakeholders. Understanding who they are gives the analyst an idea of how they will influence the project and helps them deal with feedback correctly.  

The business analyst takes time to develop trust, and trust gets them buy-in. It is easier to complete a project when stakeholders are convinced of its usefulness.  

Communicate 

Business analysts are expected to be excellent communicators. They should be able to write detailed reports that are simple enough for others to understand, and they should also be great at oral presentations.  

Frequent reports on project progress buy involvement and provide timely feedback. It is easier to correct mistakes when they are caught early in the process.  

Reporting takes different formats. Most companies insist on written reports. They are important because they provide a record that can be used to audit the project in the future.  

Apart from written reports, the business analyst and project manager can do oral presentations, virtual meetings or quick telephone calls to keep stakeholders up to date.  

Project management software can be useful for communicating with stakeholders. Many programs have a dedicated forum where each person who is involved can meet, exchange ideas and ask questions.  

Consult 

Stakeholders are a critically important resource, and business analysts must never lose sight of the fact that without their buy-in, a project is likely to fail.  

They should be consulted at every step of the project, and those with special expertise should be leveraged. 

Consultation can be in the form of regular meetings where the business analyst and project manager get ideas and feedback, or they can schedule one-on-one sessions.  

Any ideas and alterations that are made to the original project design should be communicated to the rest of the team, and the reasons for the changes should be explained and justified.  

Address concerns as they arise 

Projects keep people busy, and it is easy to ignore feedback. It can lead to a loss of buy-in.  

Analysts should develop a system that allows them to deal with feedback as it arises. They should talk to each person who has a comment or criticism to understand where they are coming from and the reason for their concerns.  

In many cases, people raise concerns because there are aspects of the project they do not understand.  

When this happens, it is important to take the time to give them a clearer picture of project objectives and how they will be achieved. 

Manage conflicts, and don’t let them simmer 

It is not uncommon for projects to fail because of conflict among stakeholders. If the board of directors doesn’t agree with management, for example, it can lead to all sorts of problems.  

Business intelligence analysts need to be good at conflict resolution. They should learn how to bring people together to agree on a common course of action and shared goals.  

Expect the unexpected 

Stakeholders are human beings and they can be difficult to predict. When it comes to stakeholder management, it helps to be prepared for contingencies.  

Rather than be caught flat-footed, have a plan B for as many scenarios as possible. It helps eliminate delays and projects can be delivered on time. 

The business analyst should also be adaptable and change according to the shifting needs of the project.  

Be transparent in all stakeholder dealings 

This is perhaps the most important of all the things that a business intelligence analyst can do. If they are open and honest, they buy trust, which is critical for project success.  

Regular updates are key 

Managing stakeholders can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Organizations that report high rates of project success understand their stakeholders, communicate with them regularly, and take their feedback seriously. They keep them up to date on every stage of the project and consult them along the way.  

A good business analyst appreciates the role that stakeholders play in project success. They work hard to loop them in, keep them up to date, incorporate their feedback and leverage their skills.