The formal definition of a stakeholder is an individual or an organization who is actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the project execution. In short, if they stand to win or lose, they need a voice.
Stakeholder collaboration is also a way to describe the level of engagement of any group, community, or even the general public if this is, say, a municipal project.
I always think of stakeholders as being the ‘Influencers’ on the project. They bring vision, impact, and contributions to the final outcome. While project managers can often find themselves mired in the details, the critical path, and the busy deliverables, it is the stakeholder collaboration portion that is in fact vital to a successful project.
Collaboration with the stakeholders results in value creation for the company. Their participation often ensures that the deliverables fully meet the project's mission or vision.
In short, if they stand to win or lose, they need a voice.
Let’s look at some examples of how stakeholder collaboration can make a project stronger and more robust.
Catch Potential Risks
A key benefit of stakeholder collaboration is early detection and ultimately resolution of issues. Collaboration with the stakeholders can help identify problems that may be missed. The stakeholder's, perhaps, loftier, or strategic view can be invaluable when details get in the way of the bigger picture. The more engaged the stakeholders are right from the start, the more improved the outcome of the project will be and the more on-time its execution.
Support from Stakeholders
Stakeholders typically want to have a deeply vested interest in a project. They may have strong views or precise requirements that need addressing. By involving them throughout the project, the team will be able to obtain invaluable input from them on an ongoing basis. I have found that using collaborative software is the most useful method to incorporate valuable information that, in most cases, proves helpful to the successful and timely completion of a project.
The more engaged the stakeholders are right from the start, the more improved the outcome of the project will be.
Perception of Quality
Stakeholder collaboration can also help the overall perception of project quality. When stakeholders are involved from the beginning and their input is valued, their role will impact the greater audience as they will have a positive perception of the project.
Sponsorship is Stewardship and Stewardship becomes Advocacy.
Managing Project Cost
One of the primary goals of a seasoned project manager is to manage the budget, the cost, and any potential overruns. Collaborating with the stakeholders can help achieve this goal. Reducing the risk of cost overruns is a prime directive and will ultimately result in improved profitability for the company. Stakeholders have insight from their vantage points that contribute to budgets and costs and/or can influence funding to support the project. Their role is vital to cost management.
Project Speed to Completion
A key reason for project cost overruns is delays. Some delays are extraneous to the project and all the risk management in the world cannot avoid them. However, delays caused by not taking stakeholder advice into consideration can put project execution at risk. When the stakeholders are involved from the start, the likelihood of a timelier closure of the project is set in motion. When a project stays ON TIME ON SCOPE and ON BUDGET the cost savings benefit all involved. Seeing a project successfully cross the finish line is rewarding and satisfying.
At the risk of sounding trite, stakeholder collaboration is essential. The greater the stakeholder engagement the better the quality of project outcomes. The repeated success of projects, large and small, builds a company’s muscle; it drives financial success, improves relationships, and builds trust and respect with each successful outcome. Using the right tools and employing the best-of-breed standards will always bring a project to a conclusion, however, having stakeholder collaboration allows the project to be perceived as successful by a greater audience. The lobbying and stewardship that is driven at the hands of the stakeholders is immeasurable.
Stewardship that comes at the hands of the stakeholders is immeasurable.
Project management is both a science and an art. From finance to interpersonal skills, the project manager crosses into many territories and brings a wide range of skills to every project. Knowing how to build teams and honor contributions is of equal importance to juggling Excel spreadsheets and managing budgets. Always bear in mind that a project truly is a team endeavor, and your stakeholders are one of your most valuable assets.
Enjoy the collaboration!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DINA O'REILLY
Dina is 4xi's growth lead, project management office and ghostwriter in residence all in one. To learn more about 4xi, you can contact Dina directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website to learn more about who we are, what we do, and how we inspire a brighter future, together: www.4xiconsulting.com
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