A couple of weeks ago I posted an article describing why communication planning is essential to project planning. Since then I’ve had a few people ask if I could expand further and describe ways in which project communication planning can be best positioned. In other words, what tools are there to help deliver the most appropriate communications in the most appropriate way to all stakeholders?
In a nutshell, if you understand your stakeholders – their aims, abilities, and cross relationship, for example – you’ll better understand what and how to communicate with them. This is achieved through stakeholder analysis.
What is stakeholder analysis?
We posted about methods to identify and understand stakeholders in May 2014, and then about stakeholder management in August 2014. In brief, stakeholder analysis is the examination of each stakeholder to increase understanding of them. Methods of stakeholder analysis include question asking and relationship gridding. By carrying out such stakeholder analysis, the project manager will immediately benefit in a number of ways:
- The expectations and requirements of stakeholders will be better understood in the project context
- The project manager will be better able to identify those stakeholders who can influence project outcomes
- The ways in which stakeholders interact with each other will be better understood, a necessary tool when leveraging support
- Workloads can be reduced by classification of stakeholders with similar interests in the project
Stakeholder analysis as a project communication enabler
Stakeholder analysis will identify the favoured methods of project communication for each stakeholder, and also if there is crossover between stakeholders. This will help the project manager to optimise communication channels, reducing communication time and ensuring messages are received appropriately and timely.
The analysis of stakeholders will also provide the project manager with the answers needed to conduct effective project communication planning. It will tell the project manager:
- Who needs to know what, and why
- When each stakeholder needs to be communicated with
- Each stakeholder’s preferred method of communication
The effect of effective stakeholder analysis on project communication planning
Stakeholder analysis will cut down on the communicative work which the project manager needs to do, optimising the time of both the project manager and stakeholders. Messages will arrive with stakeholders in a timely fashion, and communication channels will not be clogged by ‘background noise’.
When stakeholders know that communications from the project manager are always important and pertinent, then they are more likely to listen, digest, and respond. And that helps the project flow more smoothly, delivering expected outcomes on time and within budget.