Thursday, 20 March 2014

Stakeholders – a key piece of the digital project management jigsaw

Paying attention to stakeholder influence has become more and more important in defining the success of projects. Even if the project comes in on time and within budget, if the stakeholders are not happy, then the project hasn’t succeeded.

Katharine Thornber states this when she identifies Stakeholder identification and analysis as her second overlooked task in project management in Project Neglect: Four Overlooked Tasks for Starting Projects (27.2.14).

Let’s go back to basics. Who are ‘stakeholders’? They are any people that can influence the outcome of your project. So this can include internal as well as external people. There’s the rub. It’s hard enough getting your diverse and maybe dispersed, cross-functional team focused in one direction; but several divergent yet powerful client-facing perspectives affecting your direction, now that’s the reality of digital project management.

Many digital jobs - from marketing related, account management and project management - now demand being able to manage stakeholders. However, it’s very hard to find any helpful information on what this means in a digital environment. Classic stakeholder management has been around and analysed for many years. There are processes and tools that are recognised to help. We cover the power grid, RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed) charting and Communication chart in our book with several updates in this blog.

It’s good to see a process in action though and Melanie Frank learns some basics from one of her students in Agile Coach learns from Coachee (3.3.14). Yes, even Agile can learn from older techniques! Melanie describes five stages of stakeholder management analysis affecting a project as demonstrated by her student;
  1. Visual representation of the challenges.
  2. Stakeholder mapping.
  3. Analyse each stakeholder requirement.
  4. Summarise core asset of success criteria.
  5. Define core areas for improvement.
The link between identifying and analysing digital stakeholders with marketing and project management is well served in a recent PhD thesis by Steven Boyer, Glasgow Uni. Steven investigates the digital games industry. He defines his second and third stage of investigation as looking at the influence of institutional stakeholders and the way in which they analyse data about the audience (he prefers ‘player’ as a term for the reasons he gives) relating to the images in games, and the power-play within institutions that then influences the production of images in new games. This is the closest we got to a definition of how important an influence stakeholders can exert on digital projects. Congrats on the doctorate, Steven. Playermaking: the institutional production of digital game players, February 2014. Yes, it is necessarily written in a very academic and rhetorical style but we hope you can gleam the nuggets.

Overall, the environment in which we are operating is changing: no surprises there. What this means is that the business public and the way they are improving - in what is called ‘digital literacy’ - is becoming a factor we can’t ignore. The general public are changing their digital literacy too. This concept is one that needs to be watched and analysed as it affects how people relate to our products/projects. There’s a definition of ‘digital literacy’ and more at JISC – well, Northumbria Uni on behalf of JISC - that sums it all up in plain English. Honest, we didn’t aim to plug some universities over others!

1 comment:

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