One of the toughest part of projects is managing stakeholder relationships. In any project, you have a number of stakeholders: the customers who will use the end product, the team that will support the product, the team that will market and/or sell the product, the team that will build the product, the team that will design the product… the list goes on and on. In order to have a truly successful project, you must engage all of these groups and get their input. If you want people to love your project and product, you must get them involved.
Getting stakeholders involved, though, is a difficult task. It requires constant communication- but not too much communication. It requires dealing with many different groups which have different, varied and occasionally opposing interests in your project. Here’s some advice on involving stakeholders:
1) Get all stakeholders involved as is reasonably possible in your project. You need their input and their support. Their input will make your project better in the long run. Giving them a say will help get their support, which will help you get your project complete on time and successfully.
2) There is no valid reason to exclude any stakeholder from your project (no matter how much of a pain they may be). If the project affects them, they deserve a say. They also can add value if engaged properly.
3) Stakeholders do not need to be involved 100% of the time. In fact, most of them have other job duties which are designed to take up their entire work day. Trying to involve them full-time will make you a pest. Recognize when is the right time to involve them and make sure they’re there. The rest of the time, let them do their jobs.
4) Stakeholders *do* need to be involved regularly in some way, even if it’s only sending them a status of the project with notes relevent to their interest. Notice I said relevent to their interest. You must involve stakeholders at some level regularly to keep enough of their attention engaged. If you lose their attention, you will have trouble getting their help later on. Only involving them in relevent tasks and sending them relevent information is important because you don’t want to bore or confuse them. Remember, you want their interest. Work to get it, but also take care not to waste it.
Remember, the best way to gain access to stakeholders and get help from stakeholders is to keep their interest and attention. Never waste their time with details that do not matter to them. You want to show them that the time you receive from them is valuable to you. If their time is valuable to you, then what you are doing with their time (that is, accomplishing your project) will seem valuable to them.