In my earlier post, I talked of Governance - the first essential of IO program management. But who are the stakeholders of an IO program? Understanding the complicated stakeholder landscape—and the stakeholder landscape is inevitably complicated—and managing it effectively is critical to successful program implementation.
Stakeholder management is a high-priority component on complex IO programs. The solutions that comprise the larger program impact many stakeholder groups. Proactive stakeholder focus is essential from the very beginning of program design.
What Could Go Wrong?
Even if there is focus on stakeholders from the beginning, challenges can arise if there is failure to attend to key factors. In our experience, there are three primary factors that can turn stakeholders into “program accelerators” or turn them into “program inhibitors.”
- Definition of stakeholder types – Thorough understanding of all stakeholders touched by the program is essential. This is not simply an identification process; it involves “walking a mile in their shoes,” seeing the program from their eyes. What advantages does the program offer them in terms of how they do their jobs? What obstacles to acceptance may arise (e.g., the time it will take to learn new processes, additional tasks in their function due to changes in another function)? Failure to clearly define each stakeholder type is highly likely to result in slowdowns and other issues as the program rolls out.
- Stakeholder representation – Understanding the stakeholders is one thing. Making sure that their concerns, interests and ideas are represented is another. This may seem an insurmountable task, but it is not. There may be a multitude of stakeholders voices, but it is possible, and necessary, to account for them all.
- Communication to stakeholders – It is as important to communicate to stakeholders, in terms that are applicable to them and their roles in the organization, as it is to listen to them. It is not uncommon for an IO initiative to fall short in its communication to stakeholders. Treat communication as a project within the program management office and resource it appropriately. Then implement the project as soon as possible, preferably as soon as program design begins.
Happy Stakeholders = Happy IO
There are many ways to engage stakeholders in each phase of an IO program, and the ways you choose to do so will depend on your own situation. Make sure the three key factors are covered, and then design initiatives that will work well in the organization. Successful stakeholder engagement will go a long way toward a successful IO program.
In my next post, I’ll discuss the third essential, management processes.