The central role of stakeholders in the successful delivery of projects is becoming increasingly recognised.
One of my early projects was implementing a new system into a major telecommunication businesses’ call centre to resolve a major weakness in the organisation's processes that had caused a series of PR and legal disasters over the preceding few years. The need for the system was universally recognised and supported by the executive decision-makers. The technologists loved it because the development would use a new computer operating system that complied with the new IT policy. And when implemented, the system would provide a much-improved customer interface in the area of concern.
However, the call centre staff were largely opposed to the system, and their opposition was ignored because the staff always oppose change, and they don’t have any authority or power!
A few days before the application went ‘live’, the CEO visited one of the call centres and had the “facts” explained to him by an irate operator; she explained the new system meant 2 computers on each desk and would result in major reductions in call throughput by the call centre staff.
He listened to this ‘lone voice in the wilderness’ and cancelled the rollout – several hundred thousand dollars of re-work later the system was installed on the standard operating system used by all of the other call centre programs. Better stakeholder management would have avoided a massive delay and cost overrun in this ‘mission-critical application development.
The lessons are simple:
Failing to scan and manage the whole stakeholder community properly is a guaranteed way to drive projects into failure. Support from powerful executives is only one element in this matrix.
All stakeholders are important, but some are more important than others. Part of any effective methodology is prioritising your efforts to manage the most important stakeholders ‘at this point in time.
Engaging effectively and ethically with key stakeholders to help create a successful project outcome requires significant skill and maturity levels.
The Stakeholder Relationship Maturity Model (SRMM) defines five maturity levels and suggests a route most organisations can follow to progress from ‘Level 1’ to ‘Level 5’. The 5 levels of SRMM are:
Ad hoc: some use of processes
Procedural: focus on processes and tools
Relational: focus on the Stakeholders and mutual benefits
Integrated: methodology is repeatable and integrated across all programs and projects
Predictive: used for health checks and predictive risk assessment and management.
For more on the five levels, see SRMM Implementation Guide.
Dr Lynda Bourne (Australia) DPM, PMP, FAIM, FACS. She is a visiting lecturer to the Institute of Project Management and developed the Stakeholder Circle® methodology, which was researched as a part of her Doctor of Project Management (DPM) thesis.