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Learning What Your Stakeholders Want

written by: Jillian Peterson • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 7/30/2013

Identifying and prioritizing the stakeholders before you tackle your project management planning can help avoid major headaches down the road. This guide offers some specific tips that can help smooth the process when gathering requirements from different stakeholders.

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    Considering All Stakeholders

    Stakeholders are the core of your business. Even the sole proprietor has stakeholders that must be carefully considered before any major business planning takes place. Every action that you take will impact these important people, and your primary role as a project manager is meet all stakeholder expectations.

    While the concept may seem easy in theory, when the heat is on and you are facing project deadlines, failure to properly plan your stakeholder management can mean a big headache. Gathering requirements from different stakeholders at the onset of a project can help eliminate these headaches.

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    Identifying Stakeholders

    Stakeholder Requirements The age-old mantra of “customers first" is somewhat outdated in today’s business model. While we need customers to make a profit, there are other players in the project management process that cannot be overlooked. How do you identify them?

    You must first consider a few questions. Who has a vested interest in your project’s outcome, either by means of their job status or financially? Who really has control over your project? And lastly, who will be affected by your project’s outcome?

    This list can vary depending on the type of project, but generally includes you, any investors, your company’s management, the project team, and the end customer at a bare minimum.

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    Prioritizing Stakeholders

    Once you have compiled your list of stakeholders, it is time to prioritize. This simple task lets you rate each stakeholder and their overall importance to the project. The end result of prioritizing should be that you understand which stakeholder to please first. When problems arise and quick decisions must be made, knowing where your priorities are will help get your project back on track with the least amount of stress. It is entirely possible that some stakeholders will have different priority levels at each stage of your project. When needed, reevaluate your stakeholders' priority levels.

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    Analyzing Requests

    After all the stakeholders have been identified and prioritized, the next step is to make contact with each party on your list. Open the lines of communication with your stakeholders so that you can learn exactly what each one expects from or plans to contribute to the project. Now is a great time to establish a formal communication plan to assist with stakeholder communication.

    Often these requirements will conflict, and this is where the prioritizing comes into play. When conflicting demands arise as they almost always do, refer back to your priority list and make your decisions accordingly. While it may be impossible to please everyone 100 percent of the time, you can effectively give and take to keep everyone content.

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    Finalizing Plans

    After you have your list of requests and requirements, it is time to tackle the nuts and bolts of your project management plan. As you map out each phase of your project and delegate responsibility, always keep in mind your priority list and see which stakeholders' needs can be met at which stage of the project. Communicate your plans clearly to the involved parties so that no unexpected surprises occur to derail your plans.

    Image Credit: sxc.hu/duchesssa