How to Create the Perfect Stakeholder Management Plan

The involvement of key stakeholders can make or break a project. At the end of the day, your project will be a failure if the outcome doesn’t meet stakeholder expectations — even if you finish within budget and on-time. That’s why a stakeholder management plan is an essential document to include when kickstarting an initiative.

A stakeholder management plan will help you ensure project deliverables and expectations align, and that your project is seen as a success. Read on for top tips on how to create the perfect stakeholder management plan for your next project. 

What is a stakeholder management plan?

A stakeholder management plan is a written document that outlines how your team plans to manage the goals and expectations of key stakeholders during the project lifecycle. 

What are stakeholders? A stakeholder is anyone who might be impacted by your project or has a business interest in how your project turns out. Common stakeholders include:

  • Project team members
  • Project sponsors
  • Company executives
  • Clients and customers
  • End-product users
  • Suppliers and vendors
  • Contractors
  • Community members

Key project stakeholders are stakeholders who not only have an interest in the project outcome but also have the power to influence communication plans, policy, and other procedures. This influence can be exercised through levels of participation, review cycles, and more. 

Typically, key stakeholders include your client, project team, sponsor, resource managers, and executive committee. 

Project stakeholder management involves creating a stakeholder management strategy that addresses expectations, resolves conflicts, and ensures stakeholder needs are met. 

An effective stakeholder management plan also typically identifies vital information about your key stakeholders and outlines your strategy and plan for managing each one. 

Who creates a stakeholder management plan?

The project manager usually creates the stakeholder management plan. However, that doesn’t mean the PM completes it in isolation. You must gather input from everyone involved in your project to identify the key stakeholders and assess their needs, expectations, and level of influence.  

What is covered in a stakeholder management plan?

The primary components of a stakeholder management plan are:

A list of all known stakeholders. Include their name, role or position, and contact information.

  1. Prioritization of stakeholders. Rank stakeholders based on their ability to influence your project and how much they care about its outcome. 
  2. Stakeholder expectations. You cannot manage expectations if you don’t know what they are. You must document everything, including how they prefer to communicate and what they want to be involved with. 
  3. Communication rules. The plan should outline the level, frequency, and type of communication with each stakeholder as well as who on the team is their point of contact. 
  4. Action plans. This is the meat of your plan — It’s where you outline how you will manage stakeholder involvement and what steps to take to ensure expectations are met. 

Why is a stakeholder management plan important?

Effective stakeholder management is critical to a project’s success. Key stakeholders often have control over project resources, such as project funds, employees, materials, or knowledge critical to its success. 

A documented stakeholder management plan of action ensures your stakeholders’ interests and expectations are understood so that you can properly manage them. A plan enables you to articulate to a project team how communication will work — including who will be told what and when. 

Going through the process of creating a plan also helps you analyze your stakeholders and better understand them. This can help you better anticipate their needs and proactively address any concerns. 

What happens if you don't have a stakeholder management plan?

If key stakeholders aren’t engaged, or worse, if they’re actively working against your project, your chances of failure drastically increase. 

Successfully dealing with difficult stakeholders requires knowledge of what motivates them. Without a stakeholder management plan, you may not understand the underlying factors driving them, meaning you will be unsuccessful in getting them on your side. 

Plus, without having assessed and prioritized your stakeholders in your stakeholder management plan, you could waste a lot of time dealing with stakeholders who have little power, while overlooking those with the authority to tank your project.

Top tips for how creating a stakeholder management plan

Here are eight tips for how to create the perfect stakeholder management plan:

  1. Use a template. A stakeholder management template will save you time creating your plan, ensure no information fields are overlooked, and create consistency as every stakeholder plan in your company will look the same. 
  2. Start early. Key stakeholders can influence your project before it’s even off the ground. Identifying and involving stakeholders early can make all the difference to their level of engagement and your success.
  3. Update regularly. Stakeholders change throughout your project. Some may leave positions while others may join. Plus, their level of engagement and expectations may evolve as time goes on. Review your plan at least monthly to ensure it’s up-to-date. 
  4. Ensure transparency. Transparency builds trust, and when you have your stakeholders’ trust, you’re much more likely to also have their cooperation and support. When creating your communication guidelines in your plan, keep in mind that open, frequent, two-way communication creates project transparency. 
  5. Make priority clear. Including a grid or matrix of stakeholders based on interest and influence can help you quickly see and understand where to focus your efforts. 
  6. Be concise. For your plan to be successful, you need to get to the root of what people care about and document it in concise, easy to understand terms that anyone who reads it can grasp. 
  7. Plan for conflict. You will inevitably have stakeholders with conflicting needs. Be proactive about how you will resolve issues and document this approach in your plan, so everyone is aware of it beforehand. 
  8. Publish it. Your stakeholder management plan shouldn’t be a secret. Store it somewhere accessible and share it with stakeholders. Not only does this increase transparency, but it also helps ensure no stakeholders or key factors were overlooked. 

How to plan a stakeholder management strategy with Wrike

Did you know that Wrike offers dozens of templates to help you plan and launch your projects? Our communication plan template is the perfect place to start when planning your stakeholder management strategy. 

You can incorporate your plan right into our project management software to ensure you never miss out on updating key stakeholders. Easily create tasks for vital communications and assign the relevant team member responsible for delivering them. Invite stakeholders to view live dashboards and real-time reports to increase transparency and reduce meeting times. 

With Wrike, you can plan and execute your stakeholder management strategy all in one place. Sign up for a free trial today and discover how it will improve your stakeholder management!

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