How To Manage Stakeholder Expectations

Managing stakeholder expectations is unarguably one of the most difficult tasks that a project manager has. This ongoing process throughout any project, be it a huge software development project or a relatively small engineering project, is stakeholder expectation. Efficient communication between project managers, team members and the project’s stakeholders can mean that even the most efficient of end solutions is deemed not to meet the needs of stakeholders if their expectations haven’t been managed. To this end, here we aim to define how stakeholder expectations can be managed from initial requirements gathering to project completion.

Continual communication

Having continual communication is the first, most important factor in effective stakeholder expectation management. Being contactable by phone or email may be unsuitable for some projects but for others it can prove to be essential. In every project milestone meetings should be considered; this can ensure that the stakeholders in question are aware of the project’s progression and how the end solution they had in mind may be differing to the actual solution being developed.

Have a project management plan

Continual communication can be defined through a project management plan, which briefly comprises of the following pieces of information:

– Which stakeholders receive project communications and when.

– What communications are to be sent?

– How frequently communications should be sent.

– How technical terms are defined (so that those not professionally trained may understand the terms used).

– Which members of the team should be sending the communication?

Speaking their language advise that ensuring that there is continual communication is just one of the factors that are important in managing stakeholder expectations. However the quality of communication, and understanding between project members and stakeholders is both essential and difficult to ensure. Ensuring that the project’s head of communications can build rapport and clarify stakeholder understanding is vital in ensuring that stakeholders fully grasp the progression of the project.

Maintaining an issue log

Maintaining an issue log involves the documenting of problems that threaten to derail or change the direction of the project; it is also an invaluable document for managing stakeholder expectation as issues can impact upon project completion dates and project performance.

Maintaining a change log

Maintaining a change log is very much a document that is essential should complaints or concerns be raised by stakeholders at the end of the project. Whilst changes in the project may be discussed there and then, stakeholders do not have iron clad memories and may have completely forgotten about the changes by the end of the project.

Documenting change requests

Practically every project will see stakeholders redefining their needs and changing vital pieces of information in relation to their future use of the system to be delivered. As such it is vital that all changes be thoroughly documented. This ensures that all change requests can be thoroughly considered and communicated between all stakeholders. It also ensures that you have concrete evidence of changes in the final project that weren’t planned in the initial project.


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