Advanced stakeholder management

Four Key Stakeholder Management Processes for Project Managers

We share four key stakeholder management processes that project managers need to stay on top of.

Managing stakeholders is a delicate job. From communications to planning for risks and opportunities, you need to understand that you’re managing a relationship, not the stakeholder. 

When stakeholders are involved in projects and decisions, there can be many conflicting interests, complex needs, and expectations. This complexity and conflict underpin the stakeholder management process for project managers.

That’s why it’s so important to follow a formal and systematic process for stakeholder management, from planning, identification, and analysis, to communication, action, and follow-up. 

But let’s take a closer look at four key steps and practices in stakeholder management that project managers will need to stay on top of.

1. Stakeholder Identification

The first step in the stakeholder management process is to identify your stakeholders. That’s because you can’t start to build or manage relationships without first understanding who will be impacted, affected, or influenced by your projects.

Start your stakeholder identification by holding a brainstorming session with your team. Try to come up with a list of the people, groups, or organizations that your project will likely impact, or who will have an interest in or influence on the project. You may also refer to stakeholder lists from previous projects.

From there, you will be able to identify the groups or categories of people that are most likely to be impacted.

By the way, if you haven’t already, consider creating a stakeholder management plan as part of this process!

2. Prioritizing Stakeholders

Illustration showing three cards with avatars.

You won’t need to manage or engage with all your stakeholders in the same way. In fact, to make the best use of your resources, it’s a good idea to break up your list into groups so that you can prioritize your stakeholders. One good way to approach this is with stakeholder analysis and stakeholder mapping. This will help you understand why and how you need to engage with different groups in the stakeholder management process.

For example, you could create a power-interest grid to map your stakeholders, as well as organizing your stakeholder groups by their interest in the project. This can help you understand which individuals and groups to engage with first. But there are many stakeholder mapping methods to choose from — so consider which one is best suited to your stakeholders and project.

By the way, it might be tempting to skip the mapping and analysis processes and go with your assumptions. But that wouldn’t be a good idea. One survey of project managers found that clients and end users were typically considered the most important project stakeholders. However, a range of stakeholders tended to cause an equal amount of uncertainty and issues for the project, including public authorities, contractors/supplies, clients, and end users. 

So, make sure you properly map and analyze your stakeholders to determine who you should prioritize — and don’t be surprised if you find that a broad range of stakeholder groups need your attention.

Learn more in our blog about the importance of stakeholders: identifying and prioritizing stakeholder engagement.

3. Identifying Risks and Opportunities

After identifying, categorizing and prioritizing stakeholders, your job as a project manager becomes much more complex. This next step involves identifying risks and opportunities, as these may lead to complications and project delays — or allow you to succeed and even exceed your expected outcomes. 

Fortunately, with more knowledge of your project and stakeholders, you should be able to identify more threats and emerging issues before they arise. As well as capitalize on new opportunities before they pass.

That’s why an integrated approach to risk management, project management, and stakeholder management can add value to projects, since stakeholders can be a source of risk or uncertainty. For instance, you might need to allocate more resources (in other words, put more time and effort into the relationship) towards stakeholders that present a higher risk or have greater influence.

So, how do you identify that risk? Or find those opportunities? It’s a good idea to:

  • Lean heavily on your stakeholder analysis to find conflicting interests and mismatched expectations
  • Anticipate stakeholders that may resist change more than others
  • Collaborate with your team to implement ideas
  • Carefully track your stakeholders, grievances, issues, and interactions
  • Ensure your impacted internal and external stakeholders have their concerns addressed in a timely manner
  • Maintain a positive relationship with stakeholders wherever possible

Speaking of relationships…

4. Relationship Management

Finally, you’ll need to carefully manage your stakeholder relationships.

As a project manager, there are many external and internal factors that can impact your relationships — some that you can control and some that you can’t. Managing your relationships will require patience, transparency, trust, and regular communication. Trust is especially important in relationships, and can even act as a ‘lubricant’ in project management — supporting communication, leadership, resilience, and conflict resolution. 

The better your stakeholder relationships, the stronger your position will be when it comes to addressing issues that may arise during the project.

By the way, stakeholders won’t just interact with you and your organization, but may also interact with one another (for example, having a pre-existing/ongoing relationship or exchanging information during the course of the project). These relationships and interactions can have a significant impact on your project, and the way you manage and prioritize stakeholders. So make sure you identify the relationships between stakeholders and record this information (and their interactions) in a relationship map, as part of your stakeholder management process. 

A Better Way For Project Managers To Do Stakeholder Management

We’ve covered four key steps, but there’s an important ingredient we haven’t touched on yet…

It’s much easier for you to implement these stakeholder management processes with a stakeholder relationship manager like Simply Stakeholders

Our software allows you to record your stakeholder information, do stakeholder mapping, analyze and report on stakeholders, communicate with stakeholders, track issues, collaborate with your team, and track all your interactions. Plus, a whole lot more!

Find out more about the benefits of stakeholder software or if you’d like a demo of Simply Stakeholders, reach out to our team!