Overcoming Client Challenges And Managing Multiple Stakeholder Goals Effectively
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The software development is not a duck soup that can be created by an average joe. Especially, for an IT company where multiple projects are coming on the floor, each with different challenges, goals, needs, and preferences, the critical decisions don't remain limited to interface, design, or functionalities.
Each project and the stakeholders are crying out for their voices to be heard and for their opinions taken into account on the vital parts of the project to make deliverables a perfect-fit. However, managing the distinct projects with unaligned goals, incorporating the stakeholder's ideas into the app, and ensuring everyone's wishes meet in a timeframe without a proper guideline or process in place is entirely out of the question.
To strike a right balance between fulfilling stakeholders' expectations and delivering the projects within a set timeline and budget, the project managers must follow the process to keep the multi-headed beasts on uncontrolled projects at bay.
Here's the strategy that they leverage and excel while dealing with multiple stakeholders and managing their different project goals:
Identify the Project Stakeholders
It’s important to know who is vesting the time and resources into the project. Across the organizations, there can be multiple stakeholders such as project sponsor, sales team, end customer, or contractor, and each stakeholder play a different role in completing the project along with the different expectations. It’s significant to identify the stakeholders, evaluate the goals and understand their interests in the project. Also, in the discovery phase, the breakdown of scope, timeframe, and budget must be defined to avoid scope creep at a later stage.
Before the project execution, the project manager should communicate with the stakeholders that will play an active role in the project and analyze the degree of interest and influence each stakeholder carry in the project development. It reveals the type of information to be provided to different stakeholders based on their involvement, else they will end up providing too much, or too little information, which confused the stakeholders.
For instance: The sponsor will closely work together with the development team and want to have regular updates in detail. The sales team want the updates in more information to know the ongoing project status. The executive monitors the project and requires project-critical information.
It’s good enough to know the stakeholders and acknowledge the interest and influence for engaging them by relaying the right amount of information to the right stakeholders at the right time. Be careful!
Tone at the Top
When the number of stakeholders sitting around the table, all of them have different take based on what's essential for them and the department, which heavily influence the development space and can be a recipe of disaster. To make the final deliverable best-in-class, it's essential for the project manager to align the team with a standard view of "Success" and ensure no negative influence either demotivate or interfere with the team's function.
The project manager takes empathy to understand the project scope and the changes coming, and then make the team apprehend what stakeholders expect. The patience and openness is another critical component to control the development environment and close the communication gap, if exist, which further helps in managing the stakeholders and not getting the team pulled in multiple directions.
Outline the Goals
When the project manager is committed towards openness, integrity, and ethical work, they manage the team and make them work as a whole, in addition to defining their roles and responsibilities. After developing the responsibility matrix, the culture of inclusion should be established where all the team members are allowed to contribute to the project aptly.
Despite defining the roles of decision-makers, input providers, and recommendation givers, each member held a strong position in sharing the opinions, and their insights must be given equal importance to encourage them to make an invaluable contribution to project success. However, the veto power over decisions reserves to project manager for making team members feel comfortable and keeping project goal in focus.
Avoid Communication Breakdowns
Communication is vital to manage relationships with stakeholders, but when a vast amount of time is spent on communication with low-interest or low-influence stakeholders, then the key stakeholders find information overload and cannot stay up-to-date with the right information.
Thanks to technology that has gifted us the plethora of communication tools that can be leveraged to communicate with different stakeholders based on the availability and involvement in the project. Also, a communication protocol must be established at the outset to ensure the message is not lost, and the intended message is delivered to the right stakeholder at the proper time.
Before the project goes on the floor, the project manager must understand the stakeholders’ expectations for communication, create a schedule for regular updates, and continuously monitor the process is followed throughout the development.
Cope with conflict
The deliverables and KPIs are linked with the project objectives, and these milestones are often lost along the way. The project manager must get a grip of the open gateways, review the project status against the scope, and pulled back the things in line that have gone off-the-track for ensuring the end-product delivers value.
Sometimes, the stakeholders increase the project timeline and budget due to unfortunate setbacks that require changes in the project scope. However, when different stakeholders define the distinct set of changes, then bringing all the changes in the project leads to project disaster. The headache of having too many cooks in the kitchen can be zeroed down by performing the impact analysis of transformations.
The project managers must understand what changes each stakeholder is expecting and how does it correlate with the project success, in addition to considering the level of influence and interest that stakeholders demanding the changes carries. The modifications requested from potential adversaries must be accepted actively, and the ways are brainstormed to deal with changes which, when absorbed in the project, they should not hurt the project objective.
The resolution to such conflicts must be planned by the project manager and stakeholders together by first defining the meaning of project success and then focusing on how introducing the changes can adversely affect the milestones set. The risk impact identification helps in knowing which things require more attention or less attention so that issues can be fixed when they arise.
Stakeholders involvement stays at the heart of the software development, and they must be engaged throughout the development process from scope defining and gathering the input to the review of new requirements and conflict resolution. In the event, the project manager thinks- the stakeholder who is quite, he is happy and on the same page, it's the biggest mistake and wrong assumption they had. It's even a potential pitfall.
Post-weighing the stakeholders’ interest and influence, the communication must be scheduled to collect the stakeholders’ input on the deliverables and ensure they are closely tied to the project decisions. The engagement level can be increased using project management software that allows different stakeholders to get the needed updates in the real-time, keep track of changes and get the latest document, easily collaborate with team related to any project activity, and search the project records on-the-fly.
Improved engagement help the team to put themselves in the stakeholder’s requirements shoes that’s crucial for project success.
The project stakeholders management is like taming the multi-fanged, and multi-headed project beast. This is why it has become the topmost concern for the businesses to take hold of the uncontrollable projects. It’s not as easy as it appears.
It can be made a plain-sailing journey by investing time in identifying key stakeholders during interviews, toning the team at the top, covering all the bases to stay sync with the goals, ensuring seamless communication with stakeholders, performing the risk analysis to cope up with conflicts, and uplifting stakeholder’s engagement. It’s worth to prioritize these activities from the get-go to mitigate the risk and resolve the challenges.
Jumping on the new path (Following a systematic process) rather than travelling the worn path is better to take great strides and raise a toast to success. Let’s accept it!