Projects are often complex, made up of a large number of moving pieces and bring numerous challenges to those involved. The reality is projects don’t always go the way we want them to. We often find ourselves being asked to do more with less and at a faster pace than we’re comfortable with. On occasion, we are successful in our efforts despite these restrictions.
Many key factors contribute to project success, but three of the fundamentals stand out—stakeholder identification and analysis, effective communication, and identifying project requirements, managing stakeholder expectations and scope of work.
Stakeholders may affect or be affected by the project—through a project decision, activity or outcome—or they may simply perceive themselves to be affected. The impact or perceived impact can be either positive or negative in nature.
Most projects have a large number of stakeholders. Identifying all stakeholders increases the chance of project success. You must secure and document relevant information about their interests, interdependencies, influences, potential involvement, and probable impact on the project definition, execution and final results. After obtaining this information, classify the stakeholders according to their characteristics. This will make it easier to develop a strategy to manage each stakeholder. An increased focus on key relationships is critical to project success.
How do you manage expectations? Through communication. It’s vitally important that there is a well-defined communication plan tailored to fit the project and stakeholders.
One component of critical thinking is to learn by questioning. The Project Management Institute (PMI®) indicates that 90 percent of a project manager’s job is communication, however, it is not limited to just talking. Proper communication involves listening, reading reports, generating reports, filtering information from one group to another, etc. To do this effectively, you need a well-defined communication management plan. The creation of any plan like this can be broken down into six questions that need to be asked continually: Who, What, When, Where, How and Why?
- Who needs to be communicated to?
- What needs to be communicated?
- When does that need to take place?
- Where does it need to happen?
- How is it going to happen?
- Why does it need to happen?
Project Requirements, Stakeholder Expectations and Scope of Work
Before beginning your project, make sure you have clarified all goals, objectives and requirements. Obtaining clarity on what is required and ultimately gaining buy-in from the major stakeholders are crucial. These requirements, along with related goals, objectives and deliverables, become the scope of work that must be completed and will be refined over the life of your project. But if you do not start with a solid understanding of what you’re trying to achieve, you might as well not begin at all.
It will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve success from a stakeholders’ point of view if there is a lack of clarity concerning their project perception and expectations. This is why stakeholders must be identified and their expectations analyzed as early in the project lifecycle as possible.
Keeping the three key steps—identification and analysis of project stakeholders, the creation and use of an effective communication plan, and proper identification of project requirements, stakeholder expectations and accurate decomposition of the scope of work—at the forefront during project planning and execution greatly enhances the ability to achieve success.
For a deeper dive into how to guarantee project achievement, view my white paper, Three Steps to Ensure the Success of Your IT Projects.