When we’re kicking off a project, one of the first things we ask is “who needs to be involved?”. It’s important to the success of any project that we understand who the stakeholders are from the beginning, and what kind of input they will have throughout the project. Identifying stakeholders at the beginning will help define the priorities of the project and will help create consensus on decisions throughout. In this post, we share an approach to defining who your project players will be, what their roles are, and what value they will bring to the project’s success.
Identify the Project Lead
It is crucial to make sure there is one person who is shepherding the project and makes sure everything progresses smoothly. This person is called the Project Lead and serves as the main point-of-contact between your team and your creative partner. This is likely you if you are reading this, but it may be someone else that you want to appoint to gather, prioritize, clarify, and deliver all stakeholder input throughout the project.
Identify the Project Stakeholders
A stakeholder is defined as an individual who is impacted by the outcome of a project. They have an interest in the success of the project and can be within or outside of your organization. This can include leadership but also subject matter experts who will share their specific knowledge at key points throughout the project. We recommend creating a rating system from 1-5, with 1 being a primary stakeholder with a lot of interest and decision-making power, and a 5 being a stakeholder who has a low level of interest and little to no decision-making power.
Now that you have established who the stakeholders are and when to engage them, meet with each stakeholder individually and share a recommendation on where you see their input being valuable and what their expect level of commitment would be. Share the project plan with them so they can understand the project roadmap. Once you have met with each stakeholder individually, share this with the project team to gain consensus and verify that you haven’t missed anyone. We recommend doing this with the entire team at one time. That way, everyone will be on the same page before the project is even underway and you can address questions as they arise.
Implement the Plan
The chosen stakeholder engagement points should be reflected in the project schedule. Work with your project manager to make sure that you are following through on what you discussed with each stakeholder individually, and what you decided on as an organization. If schedules change (as they always do), communicate that with the stakeholder as soon as possible and reassure them that they will still have the same amount of time to provide their feedback, and that their thoughts and ideas are valuable.
By defining who the stakeholders in the project are before the project even starts, you will set the project up for success. You will be ready to take on unexpected changes and adjustments. This will free you to focus on the important decisions throughout the project instead of managing changes and frustrations. Your project is more likely to succeed when you include the appropriate people throughout the process. Everyone will feel like they are contributing to the project’s success.