The success or failure of any project, product or policy starts and ends with early and continued stakeholder involvement. Failure to engage stakeholders early will cost time, money, reputation and risk derailing a project in mid-development, resulting in decreased stakeholder satisfaction and trust.

Stakeholder engagement involves identifying and bringing people who may be affected by the decisions or implementation of a solution or change into the process. In any organization, it is vital to identify the stakeholders (those who will be directly or indirectly impacted by the change) and their characteristics, throughout the life-cycle of the project and as business analysis activities continue within the organization.

Understanding who the stakeholders are, how the impact of proposed changes will effect them, and the influence they may have on the change is vital to understanding the needs, wants, and expectations that must be satisfied by a solution. It is important to create and maintain an all inclusive stakeholder list, tracking their roles, level of influence, preferred communication methods and any other traits that could be considered valuable in the success or failure of a project. Identifying “Guardian Angels”, stakeholders who will support you and have influence over others is another key attribute to include in the list.

Stakeholders want to be heard and valued.

Understanding what stakeholders are saying requires both listening and responding. An organization will realize many benefits of effective stakeholder engagement:

Engaging with different perspectives provides opportunities for expertise.

Stakeholders have a vast wealth of data about current processes, historical information, and industry insight. Many times these stakeholders will have been with the company for a long time, or if an enterprise scaled project on the project longer than the project manager or project team. It’s important to involve all key stakeholders when gathering and documenting requirements to avoid missing major key elements of the project. Project managers, or analysts who are responsible for the success of a project, might not be the experts. Key stakeholders can provide requirements or constraints supported by experience in their industry, along with working knowledge which will be important to posses when understanding project constraints and risks.

Effective stakeholder engagement is critical to building lasting credibility, trust and ultimately granting project acceptance.

The more regularly you engage and involve stakeholders from the beginning, the more likely you’ll have a positive project launch. By the end of the project, the team members should have already been conscious of delivery expectations, risks, and ways to mitigate those risks. This process should help avoid any surprises during the life-cycle of your project. The project acceptance is simply the stakeholders stamp of approval, allowing the development, testing and deployment of the identified solution to commence.

Stakeholders bring different views and experiences that will improve risk management by highlighting issues.

The more you engage and involve stakeholders, the more you’ll reduce and identify risks on your project. When discussing initial requirements, project needs, and constraints, stakeholders may mention issues or concerns about achieving the solution. Identifying risks and developing a plan to mitigate them before issues arise will certainly increase the success of your project. Involving knowledgeable stakeholders during this process will help.

Identifying and engaging all stakeholders early in the process will always ensure a smooth and successful project delivery.