Every IT project has at least a few stakeholders with both individual and collective wants, needs, goals, and expectations. These expectations run the range of timeframe, features, functions, minimum viable product performance, finished product, testing phases, budget, and more. While you and your team may have successfully completed similar projects in the past, it is essential to approach each new project as a clean slate—otherwise the likelihood of incorrect assumptions is high. This means that a solid communication strategy must be implemented.
Here are the top tips from 11 Experts leading IT project managers in the finance industry on managing stakeholder expectations.
The key to successful stakeholder management is clear and honest communication to ensure you have the full scope of the project requirements—and each stakeholder’s individual expectations. The influence of different stakeholders can be immense and if not managed properly, can lead to project complications and delays, and even termination of the project. Although conducting stakeholder mapping early in the project is crucial to ensure we understand the influence and power of each stakeholder; an effective communication plan will provide you with the positive outcomes from your stakeholder mapping.
Once we understand the impact of each stakeholder on the project, we focus on preparing a tailor-made communication plan for each individual, which might include meeting one-on-one, conducting brainstorming sessions, presenting PowerPoints, and other data based on each of their requirements and goals. This proactive approach delivers open and clear communication and will also help to improve your relationship with each stakeholder and the company as a whole. Hence, a stakeholder plan is crucial for the success of every project, of which a strategic communication plan must be the foundation.
Raise it as soon as you can! Management of stakeholders is a matter of trust. Communication is key and you stakeholders will be on your side if you are on their side. Early communication of risk and issues is key: it shows pro-activity, engagement, willingness and fosters the trust. Gather and confirm as many facts as you can, assess the alternatives, the pros and cons; show that you care! Remember the buck stops with you!
• Compile a list of all the potential stakeholders and rank them in priority of importance and their ability to influence the project.
• Work actively with the key stakeholders, keeping then informed, actively engaged, and motivated.
• Review requirements and in-scope and out-of-scope items with the stakeholders
• Discuss risk factors, issues, and key decisions as they arise—and ensure appropriate artifacts—are signed-off on so there are no unpleasant surprises.
• Keep a log of all these communications on SharePoint / Confluence site so everyone can reference and refer to them at any time.
• For IT projects to succeed, all stakeholders’ expectations must be aligned.
• Alignment occurs either with individualized meetings or group meetings to determine and discuss the full picture, global expectations, project objectives, and benefits.
• Alignment is critical for the success of the project.
My tip to managing stakeholder expectations in IT projects, is to send a high-level weekly status report including the schedule, activities completed, upcoming milestones and risks/issues/decisions/actions. It is important to keep them in the know!
My #1 tip to manage stakeholder expectations is to itemize their expectations into 3 categories (needs, wants, and desires). This way I can target their needs first and foremost while setting expectations that the wants and desires are ones that we can explore further, implement as we gain capacity, or include them in future sprints.
First and foremost, get to know who shareholders are as individuals. Establish a rapport, try to understand what drives their engagement, and how you can help. Anything you can do to make their lives easier. Setup regular touchpoints and meetings to keep them updated, either on an individual or group basis. Determine what works best, based on their preference, goals, and culture. Whether the update is good or bad, they need to hear it. The closer you keep stakeholders are to the project, the quicker they can react and help.
I have coined the phrase that “Expectations are premeditated resentments”, so to manage them well requires practiced finesse all wrapped up in Trust, Transparency, and Truth.
Trust. Your stakeholders must trust you in order to ‘buy’ what you are ‘selling’. Earn their trust by always having integrity with your word i.e. do what you say you will do, when you say you will, and if you are not able to—then communicate this ASAP to re-negotiate outcomes. Results work wonders to build trusted relationships.
Transparency. Ensure your stakeholders are kept aware of the top risks and issues, so there are fewer surprises. Everything can be resolved with communication so keep them informed and properly engaged as often as required beyond rote status reporting. Pick up the phone often as informal chats serve much better than an email.
Truth.Executive Leaders respect truth-speaking even when it is not initially what they want to hear. Be confident when presenting fact-based evidence such as pros/cons, cost/benefits, and data-centric statistics—and when possible, provide multiple resolutions so stakeholders can make educated, quality decisions.
Communication. To successfully manage IT Projects and meet stakeholder expectations, clear and timely communication in all phases of the project, from planning to execution, is crucial.
To communicate effectively, Project Managers need to understand who the stakeholders are and their interest in the Project. Communication in the project has various forms: meetings, phone calls, emails, reports, etc.
An IT Project Manager’s role is to coordinate and ensure that right and timely information are conveyed to various stakeholders. The feedback from them should be used to identify potential issues and risk.
I would say that the top tip to manage expectations is to communicate! Communicate clearly, frequently, and throughout every stage of the project. In the initiation and planning phases communication of expectations is most clearly outlined through scope documentation, project and communication plans, and outlining assumptions and risk.
Clearly defined goals, scope, and risk to reduce the likelihood of spin when stakeholders believe certain deliverables are in scope—and find out later that they are not.
In addition to reflecting the overall timeline for each workstream, provide updaters and communication in the shared planning documents. This will ensure the expectations and deadlines are clearly outlined and available to the stakeholders at any time.
Throughout the control phase, maintaining transparent communications through regular status reporting and use of project change requests builds trust and promotes realistic stakeholder expectations—which in turn allows them to play a more effective role in the successful delivery of your IT project.
Always put yourself in the end-user position to better understand the reason and the ‘why’ behind individual stakeholder’s expectations. Ask yourself how you want to see the end results that can meet or exceed their expectations!
What all these top tips have in common is that project goals must be clear and measurable and that open lines of communication are essential for trust, transparency, and the success of a project. Without a foundation of communication and ongoing communication process, PMs, team members, and stakeholders may be working off assumptions—that would not exist if everyone works together as part of a team. While the bulk of the work falls on the IT team, projects are never successful unless they meet or exceed stakeholder expectations!
Apply these simple strategies of these experts to manage stakeholder expectations on your next IT project. Do you have a strategy to share? Reach out to us now. Feel free to view our open IT jobs now and apply.