A large number of project offices have groups of stakeholders they support on a recurring basis. These regular customers often know how the process works, from purchase approval requirements to the frequency of status updates to which tasks are handled by each project management professional. But the same can’t be said of those stakeholders who may not have been part of past projects. These new customers are often coming into an area that’s unknown to them, and they likely have many questions. Project management teams welcoming new stakeholders into the fold can make things easier with a few simple strategies.
Tell them who you are. Stakeholders may be familiar with a few members of the project office, but there’s a good chance they don’t know everyone. If the team is small, an informal kick-off meeting that includes stakeholders and project sponsors is often a good way to encourage more familiarity. In large Project Teams, or when the team is spread over several locations, a simple e-mail introduction with names, faces, and areas of responsibility may serve stakeholders well.
Tell them what you do. Project management is sometimes a vague concept for those not regularly involved in it. Helping new stakeholders understand what type of expertise your team brings to the project is a good step towards building a better rapport and instilling greater confidence. This is also an excellent opportunity to call out functions within the Project Team that may be of specific interest to stakeholders. Does one person manage regulatory compliance efforts? Identify them. Has a particular PMP® been tasked with facilitating planning activities? Let stakeholders know who that person is, so they’re ready to begin working together as soon as the project begins.
Tell them which external partners are involved. In some Project Teams, outside consultants and vendors interact regularly with stakeholders and sponsors. Because of internal resource limitations or simply due to the culture of the organization, trusted external partners may provide updates on work disruptions, manage scheduling of end user training sessions, gather feedback from beta testers, etc. So that no one is surprised when these messages come through, be sure everyone involved in the project knows which outside providers are overseeing key activities.
Tell them how to reach you. One common complaint of stakeholders is that they either don’t know who to call when they have a question or a problem, or that they’re never able to reach the person in the Project Team that they need. Start the project (and your team’s customer satisfaction efforts) off right by distributing an official communication list to stakeholders and sponsors. This doesn’t mean that everyone in the Project Team needs to be listed, but there should be enough people included so your internal customers are never without a warm body to talk with if an issue pops up.
Tell them what’s expected of them. It’s not unusual for new stakeholders to assume they’re simply along for the ride—that the project office is handling everything and there’s nothing further they need to do. Rarely is that the case. Instead, instruct stakeholders and sponsors on which project activities are in their areas of responsibility. This may be as basic as ensuring they know they should contact a PMP® if a new piece of equipment isn’t working properly. In other projects this may be a more complex undertaking, such as when stakeholders have been tasked with gathering benchmarking data or participating in the vendor selection process. No matter what the expectations are, take the time to be sure stakeholders are crystal clear on what they need to do, and also what will be managed by PMP®s directly.