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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chapter 70: Managing Stakeholder Expectations

Managing stakeholder expectations means communicating and working with stakeholders to stay on the same page with them on the project requirements by addressing their needs and issues as they arise. What do you really do when you manage stakeholder expectations? This is a three-pronged task:
1. Containment - Monitor and keep the expectations of the stakeholders within the project scope and project management plan through active communication.
2. Concerns - Address the stakeholder concerns that have not become issues yet; for example, anticipate problems in the near future. Addressing such concerns may uncover some potential risks that will need to be addressed. An issue is an item or a matter that is under discussion or dispute, and there are most likely opposing views and disagreements about it among the stakeholders.
3. Issues - Understand, clarify, and resolve issues raised by the stakeholders. Some of the resolutions can give rise to change requests; other issues may be postponed to the next project or the next phase.

The importance of resolving issues in a timely fashion cannot be overstated. An unresolved issue can grow into a major source of conflict and a delay in completion of project activities. Not to mention the negative impact in the customer satisfaction area.

You can see that managing stakeholders’ expectations will keep them on the same page with you by ensuring that they understand the internal dynamics and realities of the project, such as risks and interdependencies. Keeping them in touch with the project reality and on the same page with you will increase the probability of project success.

It’s the responsibility of the project manager to manage stakeholder expectations. We do it using the Manage Stakeholder Expectations process.

The picture below explains the process.

Managing stakeholders’ expectations is crucial for project success because it keeps their expectations in line with the project goals, objectives, and requirements in the project management plan. Otherwise, their definition of success will be different from your definition of success, and the project will fail in their eyes even if it succeeded according to the project management plan.

Inputs to Managing Stakeholder Expectations

Just at the beginning of the chapter, I mentioned that managing stakeholder expectations is a three-pronged task. That was the “What of managing stakeholder expectations”. But how do you actually do the managing part? The how of the task also has three dimensions to it:
1. Manage stakeholders according to a strategy - This strategy is documented in the Stakeholder Management Strategy that you developed in the stakeholder identification process during project initiation.
2. Identify the right stakeholders to communicate with - A list of stakeholders and information about them is in the stakeholder register that you created during the initiation stage when you were Identifying Stakeholders.
3. Communicate with the stakeholders according to the Communication Management Plan - This plan was developed during project planning. That means you are communicating the right information at the right time to the right stakeholders by using the right methods.

You can use the issue log, also called the action item log, to open the issue, monitor it, resolve it, and close it. Issues should be clearly stated, categorized, and prioritized. An action item (or issue) log is a tool used to document and monitor actions that need to be taken or issues that need to be resolved. This is an essential tool to ensure that important items do not fall through the cracks of communication.

Similarly, you can maintain a change log to document the changes that are requested, have occurred, or have been implemented during the project lifecycle.

The organizational process assets that can affect managing stakeholders’ expectations include the following:
Organizational change control procedures - These are important because some change requests may arise in the process of managing stakeholder expectations.
Issue management procedures - You should comply with these procedures while managing stakeholder issues.
Organizational communication requirements - These requirements must be met while communicating with the stakeholders.
Information from previous projects - It’s always useful to learn from the experience in order to do better.

Tools & Techniques used to Manage Stakeholder Expectations

The tools and techniques that you can use in managing stakeholder expectations include the following:
Management skills, including interpersonal skills - You will need these skills to manage change, resolve conflicts, and build trust. These skills include presentation, writing, and public speaking skills.
Communication methods - You will use the appropriate communication methods as described in the communication management plan.

Output of Managing Stakeholder Expectations

The obvious output is the fact that stakeholders are managed properly and are fully aware of what is happening in your project. Additionally, as a result of managing stakeholder expectations, some changes can occur. For example, you may need to make some changes to the stakeholder management strategy in order to accommodate unexpected situations and needs. Furthermore, you may find a communication method ineffective and want to replace it with a more effective method, which will cause an update to the communication management plan. You may end up identifying a new stakeholder, and that will require a change in the stakeholder register, and so on. Obviously, you will be updating the issue log as the issue proceeds toward resolution. The point here is that when a change occurs, you should think through it and update all the documents and plans that need to be updated to ensure consistency after the change has been accommodated.

You should also document your experience of managing stakeholder expectations, which includes causes of issues, how the issues were resolved, lessons learned, and so on. This will add to the organizational process assets and will be useful for upcoming projects and as a record through the lifecycle of the current project.

Prev: Big Picture of Stakeholder Management

Next: Distributing Information

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