When managing a project, there are countless components to juggle, no matter your level of involvement. Balancing schedules, workflows, and resources is challenging to begin with. But as a manager, there’s another critical component to consider — parties with a vested interest in the project’s outcome, also known as stakeholders.

The first step in pleasing everyone involved in the project is to identify these individuals and entities. Then, knowing how to engage stakeholders throughout the project’s lifecycle can ensure you build productive relationships based on mutual trust and respect.

What are project stakeholders?

Stakeholders in a project are those involved in or impacted by a project’s outcome, whether by influence, interest, or both. They include anyone who works on, promotes, or uses the end product.

Because stakeholders have diverse needs and expectations, it’s essential to first identify the various types involved through stakeholder analysis so you may better engage with them. Here are some of the most common stakeholder groups.

1. Project managers

Project managers track a product’s orderly development process, from writing the project plan to overseeing team member productivity and ultimately delivering the end result. Other stakeholders, like employees and investors, often consider managers the face of the initiative, entrusting these leaders with authority over daily decision-making for the team. If development falls short — perhaps in terms of project quality or timelines — the manager faces the consequences.

One of the project manager’s primary roles is developing and implementing an effective communication plan to keep stakeholders consistently informed and engaged. Once they’ve identified all stakeholders, managers devise a plan to keep everyone updated, eliminating unexpected protocols and outcomes upon project completion.

2. Resource managers

When a project requires a complex budget, many team members, and significant resources, a resource manager will often step in to manage these components. In collaboration with the project manager, these leaders are responsible for sourcing and allocating resources — including technical experts, specialized equipment, and contractors — to ensure the project team has everything they need to complete their work.

Resource managers leverage communication and collaboration skills to build engaging, productive working relationships with project managers and executives. These positive ties help managers negotiate with other stakeholders in cases of conflicting project requirements or the need for additional budget. Resource managers must communicate regularly with project management to ensure supplies will cover the scheduled timeline.

3. Sponsors

Project sponsors are often the initiative’s champion, using their influence to advocate for approval and financial support from upper management. They handle decisions regarding requirements and outcomes, ensuring the project furthers long-term organizational goals. For example, requests to change the project scope due to a conflict with another ongoing initiative will most likely come from the sponsor.

Because sponsors have a vested interest in the outcome, they require open communication channels to maintain engagement with both the project and resource managers. Team leaders should provide sponsors with regular progress and financial reports, outlining the team’s productivity and resource allocation to demonstrate effective project management. Managers should also build trusting, respectful relationships with sponsors by seeking and valuing their input.

4. Customers

Unless operating under an agile project management framework, managers may overlook customers as part of their stakeholder engagement strategy. Identifying and including clients is vital, especially for consumer-oriented initiatives, as their expectations and opinions play a critical role in the project’s lasting success.

Customers connect directly to an initiative’s goals even before teams release the project — meaning you should thoroughly consider consumer needs at the outset of planning. Then, once implementation nears, you must share the expected results with your clients. The marketing team, alongside the project manager, can strategically communicate with clients about how project outcomes will affect them — which highlights the reasons consumers should care about successful results.

What’s stakeholder engagement?

Stakeholder engagement is a communication strategy that involves listening, collaborating with, and informing all parties involved or impacted by a project’s implementation. A team’s engagement strategy requires a stakeholder analysis for identifying, mapping, and prioritizing key team members. This helps managers leverage existing resources to devise communication methods with each group.

Establishing a productive stakeholder engagement plan provides insight into all involved parties’ needs and desires. By creating a strong plan, managers can foster positive relationships, helping build trust and confidence in a project’s outcome. Engagement can also influence the buy-in for future initiatives — if you build and maintain strong relationships, you create a network of potential investors and sponsors moving forward.

When successful, engaging with stakeholders can mitigate potential risks and conflicts among project groups, as consistent communication helps align teams to foresee possible problems before they arise.

Top 6 strategies for effective stakeholder engagement

Establishing some best engagement practices can set teams up to achieve optimal results. Implementing these tactics helps you listen to and work effectively with stakeholders, placing you and your team on the path to success.

1. Identify your stakeholders

Make a list of everyone your project will affect, including internal and external stakeholders such as:

  • Employees
  • Clients
  • Suppliers
  • Partners
  • Investors
  • Regulators
  • Community members

Once you complete the list, prioritize the stakeholders based on their influence and added value to the project. You can determine a stakeholder’s influence by how well team members trust and respect them or seek their expertise and advice. The amount of revenue, resources, or capital a stakeholder brings to the project also contributes to their value. A high-value, high-influence stakeholder will require a greater level of engagement than others.

2. Understand needs and expectations

Get to know your stakeholders to understand their needs and expectations for the project’s outcomes. Seek input by asking questions or circulating a survey to see the project from their perspective.

3. Establish a communication plan

Engaging with stakeholders requires consistent communication. After prioritizing stakeholder groups, create a plan to keep all parties informed and provide regular updates through diverse communication channels, such as emails, social media, and face-to-face meetings. You can also use these platforms to solicit feedback, insights, or opinions about your team’s process. Simplify your communications to suit each audience, ensuring your messages contain sufficient detail to maintain engagement.

4. Build your network

Establishing a relationship with each stakeholder group builds rapport and trust, contributing to higher engagement levels. Demonstrate that you value their input and are committed to working together by including them in team meetings, problem-solving processes, and even less formal day-to-day conversations. Strong working relationships make collaborating easier and enjoyable, placing allies in your corner to help overcome challenges.

5. Track engagement

Establish metrics to evaluate levels of engagement across various parties, and leverage stakeholder management platforms and analytical tools to regularly measure and track this data. Using this information, you can acknowledge their contribution, letting you strengthen your relationship and demonstrate each stakeholder’s value to upper management.

6. Stay one step ahead

Monitor market trends relevant to your project’s outcomes and communicate that information with your stakeholders. This data helps you anticipate potential adjustments to project scope or unidentified risks so you can take proactive and preventative steps. If project adjustments affect the deliverables, your stakeholders will already understand the reasons for and nature of the changes.

Successful stakeholder engagement with Roadmunk by Tempo

Keeping stakeholders engaged is a breeze with Roadmunk by Tempo. Whether you’re working in IT, product, or project management, Roadmunk has the templates you need to create an audience-friendly roadmap that builds engagement by visualizing team progress, showcasing project goals, and centralizing team collaboration.
Couple Roadmunk with Tempo Timesheets for a suite of tools for effective project planning, data-based resource trend identification, and task and project completion time monitoring. Together, project managers have everything they need to manage multiple projects and stakeholders with ease.