Guideline Two | Stakeholders

2. Engage and respect key stakeholders early and over the life of the project.

It is important to take project stakeholders seriously. By conventional definition, they have an interest in, or influence over, the project. In some cases, ensuring that key stakeholders’ interests are served, or at least respected by a project, is the most powerful project success factor.

There are often several important project stakeholders, including: those providing the funding (or sponsorship); those doing the work (e.g. project teams, academic staff); those being impacted directly (e.g. students, academic or professional staff); and those with special interests or who could be impacted indirectly (e.g. employer groups, heads of department or function, professional associations).
Ideally, for many projects the likely key stakeholders should be consulted prior to a project proposal being completed. Their inputs (e.g. needs, values, views) should be a critical part of the intelligence that goes into formulating project objectives, rationale and underpinning logic. Where this isn’t possible or hasn’t been done, early engagement with stakeholders is particularly important.
Stakeholder engagement should start with some kind of stakeholder analysis. Essentially this means identifying who the important stakeholders are, why they are important and what their particular interests and/or influences are.

Effective stakeholder engagement can take many forms. It can be highly formal and systematic, or relatively informal. Circumstances (e.g. project scope and complexity) should shape the approach taken. In general, it should be characterized by:

  • showing respect (making clear that stakeholders’ views matter)
  • active listening and demonstrating that they have been heard
  • encouraging their active involvement and/or support
  • showing a learning orientation (reflected in project activities)
  • ensuring that proposed project success indicators reflect their values/needs
  • keeping them informed (in ways they prefer or require)

There is no one template for stakeholder analysis or engagement that fills all needs and you will probably have to develop your own. However, the JISC template, linked to on the right is a useful start.