There's an incredibly simple way for Business Analysts to increase engagement into their projects.
And when you know what it is, you'll want to use it again and again.
In fact, this technique has flooded my inbox with emails from busy managers, offering their resources to support delivery of my projects.
And today, I'm going to show you how I used it to engage 15 business areas in the space of one week.
I call it 'The Shuffling Stakeholder' technique.
To do it you need to understand 3 key components:
1. How to use the Stakeholder Analysis Power-Interest Grid and why it is so
2. How to create a stakeholder forecast
3. How to effectively approach busy, (often influential) business leaders
I'll also tell you EXACTLY what I said to my stakeholders to kick off the project.
And reveal a bizarre twist that when added to the project, makes this technique even more powerful.
You could even say it contradicts this whole post.
That's why it's very, very important that you read it.
It comes in the form of a 'Lessons Learned' Log.
FREE BONUS SECTION: Never miss a stakeholder again - This bonus section includes a FREE list of 23 core types of people that may need to be engaged in any project. You can tick them off for every project you get involved in. I also give you a Power-Interest Grid Template to save time creating your own. Get access here
But firstly, some Background
A few months ago, A Finance manager asked for an end-to-end process review, which spanned across 15 business areas.
Approximately 150 people.
And a transactional value in the £millions
She asked me to do it.
So initiating the project immediately was crucial in order to meet the strict deadlines.
Which is why early engagement was the key.
It ALWAYS is!
I didn't speak to all 150 people but I certainly engaged a fair few of them.
And I started with the managers.
It took under 2 weeks to meet with all 15 business area managers and get them to be involved in my project.
And ' YES! ' The process review and change delivery was an absolute success across every business area involved.
But when you add this strategy to working as a team during delivery you see even better outcomes.
Stakeholder Analysis - Power / Interest Grid (or PI Grid)
Why is it so Powerful? (Excuse the pun)
The power-interest grid is one of the best ways to understand who your stakeholders are and how much influencing you need to do towards them.
It's easy to complete.
Can be kept private or made public.
And significantly helps YOU improve your interpersonal skills.
But wait, there's more.
Understanding the opinions and interests of the powerful stakeholders WILL help you win them round.
Winning round the powerful stakeholders WILL help you get support and more resources on the project. Especially during delivery phase.
By completing the PI Grid early, you can build in the foreseeable stakeholder engagement tasks into your project plan.
I shouldn't need to tell you that a lack of stakeholder engagement isn't a reason for a project being delayed.
If there's a lack of stakeholder engagement, it is down to the Business Analyst to resolve.
For more info on the BA's role, have a read of my extremely popular post:
Business Analysts 37 Habits
When do I do it?
Do this after you've agreed the Terms of reference (ToR) with the Sponsor.
Tip: Use the Scope section on the ToR to help determine the correct stakeholders.
But to get the utmost benefits from this technique.
Your Stakeholder Analysis MUST be updated repeatedly throughout the project.
Great, how do I do it?
Identify your stakeholders
Remember, NO-ONE else knows about your new project.
So by first identifying the right people.
You can focus your influencing efforts.
Focussing your efforts WILL get the right people interested in your project
First, you need to know who your stakeholders are.
Make sure you downloaded the bonus section so you know ALL the types of people who might need to be included in your stakeholder analysis.
If you didn't, just click here to do so now
First, Identify and list all the people who are interested in your project.
Then list all the people who you want or need to get interested in your project.
Then list all the people who have some power over the outcome of the project.
Answer this question: Who can put an end to your project?
List the following details relating to your key stakeholders:
Here's an example:
Draw a simple Power-Interest grid (as below).
Now place all of your stakeholders
Where on the grid do I put them you ask?
Here's how to decide.
Take your first stakeholder, perhaps that is the Sponsor of your project.
Ask yourself ' how much power does the sponsor have over whether the project goes ahead or is stopped?
Is it high or low?
Chances are it is HIGH (because they are the sponsor)
Now ask yourself - How much interest do they currently have over the project?
Is it high or low?
Chances are it is also HIGH. After all they initiated the project.
With this knowledge in hand - Place your sponsor on the Power Interest Grid like so.
Now do this for every stakeholder in your list
These are the people you need to engage!
Plan The Stakeholder Shuffling
Next you need to get a great understanding of your stakeholders to determine how you will manage engagement throughout the project.
Where you placed your stakeholders on the grid will determine whether you need to:
High influence, interested people: these are the people you must fully engage and make the greatest efforts with e.g. A head of department/function.
Keep Satisfied: High influence, less interested people: provide sufficient information to these people to ensure that they are up to date but not overwhelmed with data e.g. departmental members affected by the change.
Keep Informed: Low influence, interested people: keep these people adequately informed, talk to them to ensure that no major issues arise. These people can help with the detail of the project, usually End Users, Project Managers.
Monitor: Low influence, less interested people: provide these people with minimal communication to prevent boredom e.g. other departmental members, teams unaffected by the change.
Now for the SHUFFLING
This is easily the most important part.
Here I outline the key questions to ask yourself about your project stakeholders and tell you why these questions are important.
The first questions to answer about each stakeholder include:
- What financial or emotional interest do they have in the outcome of the work ' is it positive or negative?
- What motivates them most of all?
- What is their current opinion of your work and is it based on good information?
I'm sure I don't need to say this again.
But I will anyway.
At the beginning no-one knows a project it exists except you (OK and your sponsor).
This means that most of your stakeholders will probably NOT be interested in your project
That doesn't mean you don't WANT them to be interested in it.
It doesn't mean you don't WANT to know more about these people.
So now ask yourself these questions about your Stakeholders.
- What support do you want from them?
- What information will they want from you?
- How do they want to receive information from you ' This will input into your communications plan.
- If they are not likely to be positive, what will win them round to get their support?
Then create a Stakeholder Forecast (i.e. where on the map you want them to be)
Finally - Find answers to these questions to build an even better understanding:
- If you are unlikely to win round, then how will you manage their position?
- Who else might be influenced by their opinions? Decide if they need to become stakeholders in their own right!
BOOM - Now you're fully equipped with all the information you need you can move onto the next stage
Stakeholder Engagement - The MOST Important Part
This activity WILL determine the success of your project
You MUST now use your knowledge from the previous sections to engage your stakeholders
Here how I did it
1.An email that would make everyone's ears prick up (well, almost everyone's)
I sent this email to all the key people on my P-I Grid.
It was simple and straight to the point.
It was easy to write.
Here it is:
Improvement Initiative for [Team Name]
Hi [Stakeholder name]
I am the business analyst for [Company name] and am initiating a project.
To significantly improve the [Stakeholders Interest] and tasks in your area.
Could you spare me 30 minutes to discuss details, timescales and your team's resource availability for the project?
This project has full backing of [Sponsor's Name] and [Sponsor's Manager's Name]
Please let me know either way.
That's all you need to say!
And it's easy to replicate for each key stakeholder - Just copy and paste, then change the 'core interest' details for each person you are sending the email to.
Putting a lot of information into an email may seem a good option. Don't do it.
Those busy function leaders won't read 5 paragraph emails if they don't even know who you are - FACT!
2. Follow up with a phone call and a visit
This one-two 'punch' increases buy-in beautifully.
Wait 2-3 days before making the follow-up phone call(s). No more.
I used my knowledge of the stakeholder's interests to decide how to approach the call.
Noted down the date and time of the initial email and referred to it during the call
I repeated to them the benefits that would specifically impact them and asked if they would be willing to meet for 30 minutes to discuss this further.
Tip: Always look out for rapport building opportunities - often in the form of personal interests.
Second, for those who accept, set up a meeting, adding a short 'Thank you for agreeing to meet me' in the body of the invite.
For those who were amazingly difficult to get hold of on the phone.
Find out their work location and pay them a visit, hoping to catch them at their desk.
This is a great tactic because it's very difficult for someone to refuse a reasonable request.
Once you have the manager's engaged it will be much, much easier to engage their teams for workshops, interviews or even data collection.
The Lessons Learned Log
I need to tell you this because it may help you define your approach AND your frame of mind during the early stages of any project.
So, after completing the discovery phase of the project.
I conducted a lessons learned to identify any areas that I could improve upon in the next upcoming projects.
Here's an extract from my lessons learned log:
So as you can see, if I'd conducted an 80:20 Pareto Analysis alongside the Stakeholder Analysis, then I may not have needed engage all 15 business areas.
Having said that, most of the emphasis was placed on the most problematic business areas so it wasn't a major issue.
So have a think about your most problematic areas for investigation and how the stakeholders relate to this.
Finally, you probably noticed.
I've mentioned a number of Business Analysis techniques in this article.
Above and beyond the Stakeholder Analysis.
You may or may not know the benefits of using these other frameworks.
So stay tuned to Business Analyst Guru for the next few months as we go on a journey through continuous improvement and better project success.
Giving it a go? This will definitely help
I probably don't need to say this but I will anyway'
If you're serious about getting people engaged in you projects, you NEED to be consistent and persistent in your approach.
To make the process super simple, I've created a special bonus area just for this post.
This free bonus area includes:
Click below to access this special area:
Once you've done that, take a minute to comment on my post It's great to hear your thoughts -GOOD and BAD -->
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