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Stakeholders matter

Primavera Project StakeholdersWe’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – Fifth Edition, and it’s great to see that there’s a new focus on stakeholder management. The updated standard, which came out this summer, has a whole new knowledge area focused on managing stakeholders.

This is something we’ve been aware of for some time. In fact, we can’t think of any successful Primavera implementation in any industry that has been managed without the full participation of a group of stakeholders. Stakeholder management is an essential part of any project, and enterprise project management tools are no exception.

If you are about to embark on a project to deploy new enterprise tools like Primavera across your business, then here are our 5 tips for making sure you involve stakeholders effectively.

1. Find your stakeholders

The very first part of stakeholder management is to work out who your stakeholders are. In a Primavera implementation, this is likely to be the obvious candidates: the Project Management Office team, the project managers, the Quality management team. But it is also likely to involve other people like senior managers, the Finance department (if you are launching Earned Value Management at the same time you’ll probably want to get some of them involved) and business representatives from major current projects. This last group will help you work out whether the reports produced are fit for purpose, amongst other things.

List all your stakeholders in a log so that you don’t forget them! Remember to update it periodically, as stakeholders on projects change. Someone may leave or change departments, which will mean you’ll have a new stakeholder to bring on board.

2. Get them involved early

Ideally, it’s a good idea to get your stakeholders involved with product selection, although we know that is not always possible. And if you ask 20 people what the best tool is to manage the corporate portfolio, you’ll probably get 20 different answers! Sometimes you have to let subject matter experts make the decision. However, you can still get your stakeholders involved early. Host a system demo as soon as you’ve chosen your enterprise tool, and invite all the stakeholders along. This is their opportunity to ask questions and to shape the implementation. You never know, you might even get a couple of volunteers to join the project team or for testing later.

Another reason to get them involved early is that it gives you the opportunity to find out if each individual is feeling positive about the move to a new tool. If you try to involve someone and find them resistant, catching it early means that you have time to change their perception about enterprise project management systems and their advantages. With a little discussion, you can probably work out why they are feeling that way and work out a strategy to address it. For example, they may not understand the benefits of Primavera or that the increase in standardization will lead to better project results. Explaining this and providing a product demo will help them understand why the project is happening.

3. Keep them informed

Even the most peripheral of stakeholders needs to be kept informed. It isn’t a good idea to ignore project communications because eventually they’ll be faced with the new product and be expected to go along with it. If they have been informed and given the opportunity to contribute to the project as it progresses, you’ll find that they are much more likely to embrace the end result.

Communication is a great way to engage stakeholders and it is very easy to do. An email newsletter once a month or a standard progress report can explain how things are going. Combined with other means of communication that allow direct feedback, such as demonstrations, workshops and conference calls, you’ll find that using a number of methods to communicate is the most effective as it allows for different people’s personal preferences.

4. Ask for help

Primavera help imageStakeholders aren’t simply there as customers of your project. They are also the people who have a vested interest in it being a success because they will be using the end result. Asking for their help is a good way to get them involved above and beyond just issuing project status updates.

This can come in the form of testing resource, using their project as a pilot for Primavera, or simply providing feedback on the output or look and feel of the tool. Many stakeholders prefer to feel useful and also that they have contributed, although you will no doubt find some who are happy to sit back and let the project happen around them. The community of project managers is one group that you should definitely find practical ways to engage with as this will also help their understanding of the tool when it goes live.

5. Say thank you

Stakeholders may have a vested interest in your project, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be appreciated! Saying thanks when they have helped out is an easy way to recognize their contribution. Equally, at the end of the project, make sure that you take the time to thank everyone for their patience and support during the transition to a new enterprise project management tool. Implementing Primavera can be challenging, especially if it is the first time the company has adopted mature methods of portfolio management, and changing working practices is always difficult. Thank the project team and the stakeholder groups for being so positive during the implementation and reassure them that if there are any bugs or issues found post-launch that you (or someone) will be there to resolve them.

There are a number of tools in the new PMBOK Guide® that you can use to help identify, record and assess the influence of your stakeholders, but in the end, stakeholder management isn’t rocket science. It’s simply about making sure that the right people are involved in the project in the right way, and that any negativity or obstacles are removed, or at least reduced. It’s good project management practice, and as our customers will tell you, it gives any project a much better chance of success.

Are you thinking about implementing a project management solution in your organization? Click below to access our free Primavera P6 R8 checklist to see if your company is ready to implement P6 R8!

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