Depending on the scope and ambition of your upcoming project, going public and asking for stakeholders to pitch in support of your development efforts might be the most logical financial decision to make. Whether you’re working with B2B investors or B2C backers, keeping your stakeholders in the loop about the current status of your project is of utmost importance. According to Finances Online, only 34% of organizations deliver projects according to stakeholders’ expectations, while 77% of high-performing projects utilize a project management solution to streamline their processes as much as possible.
Thus, it’s important not only to gauge the expectations of your stakeholders efficiently but also strive to over-deliver on the initial promises, making recurrent investments and positive brand awareness a reality. That being said, let’s take a look at several ways in which you can manage your stakeholders’ expectations in regards to their investments with your business, as well as several practical reasons as to why you should do so going forward.
The Advantages of Managing Project Stakeholder Expectations
Before we dive into the “how” of managing stakeholder expectations, let’s discuss the “why” behind the matter. Once individual firms or investors stake a certain amount of financial or other resources with your project, it will be up to you to follow up on your promises going forward.
Katherine Michael, Head of Finances at Be Graded, spoke on the matter briefly: “There is no shame or weakness in sharing the stakes of your project with B2C/B2B stakeholders. However, while the approach will certainly minimize your own company’s development costs, you will also be required to take stakeholder opinions and mandates under serious consideration as time goes on.”
Depending on the timeline, scope, and complexity of your project’s development, stakeholders’ attention and personal investment will vary over time. Thus, in terms of concrete advantages related to managing your project stakeholder expectations, it’s worth pointing to several points, including:
- Firmly established industry presence due to investment networking
- Ongoing dialogue and a sense of investor’s security
- Higher odds at recurrent post-project investments
Managing Stakeholders’ Expectations
1. Define your Deliverables
The best way to address concerns, issues, or questions which stakeholders might pose to your team during the project’s development is to define your deliverables from day one. What is the concrete goal of your project and which KPIs are you using during development? Are all stakeholders receiving a copy/license of your deliverable upon completion, and if not, what are your stakeholders’ benefits for backing your project?
These questions should be answered internally and presented to all backers of your project as early as possible to avoid confusion, accusations of scam or worse – public lawsuits, and loss of brand reputation. Once your deliverables are clearly defined, each stakeholder will be able to make an informed decision on whether or not your project suits their interests, filtering out those which don’t identify with your vision and deliverables.
2. Find Common Ground
Being selective about which stakeholder receives which information about your project management is bound to cause issues down the road. Given the nature of your project’s development, not every stakeholder will be familiar with your industry’s terminology, jargon, and standard procedures.
This makes it important for you to find common ground with all stakeholders so that each receives the same reports, data, and development updates without exception. You can choose to invite stakeholders to a cloud-based project management platform, use tools such as Evernote to write up concise reports or organize physical meetings and briefings on a regular basis to keep everyone in the loop about your development.
3. Keep the Project Focused
While it is essential to stay in touch with your stakeholders, and to communicate the current state of your project, giving them free rein in regards to your development’s direction is not at all welcome. Make sure that all stakeholders are familiar with your initial pitch, goals, timeline, as well as the resources required to make your project a reality.
Allowing any individual stakeholder to push for and eventually change the focus of your project for the sake of their own agenda is a bad idea, one which you should avoid at all costs. Cynthia Alison, Chief Financial Officer at Subjecto and Studyker, had this to say on the matter: “The value proposition of your initial project briefing is sacred and should not be modified on a whim. Major changes to your project’s direction should only come if all stakeholders (or a majority in case of B2C crowdsourcing) agree that this is the way to go for everyone’s benefit.”
4. Showcase Work in Progress
It’s never a good idea to go “radio silent” once your stakeholders’ investments are in place. While the development of your project might take months or years depending on its complexity, keeping the stakeholders in the loop is highly recommended.
You can showcase working prototypes, demonstrate real-world applications of your product/service, or offer update reports on your development team’s findings, fixes, and ideas periodically. This will allow the stakeholders some security in terms of the investments they’ve made with your company, ensuring that everything is still in progress and that you haven’t given up on your project in any way.
5. Ask for Opinions and Feedback
Lastly, a controlled environment can be utilized to gather stakeholders’ feedback, suggestions, comments, and critical opinions on the project they have a stake in. The same applies to whether your project is backed by B2B investors or crowdfunded by a global audience.
While they might not be as familiar with the development cycle and its requirements as you are, stakeholders can still offer valuable data for your project’s further progress. Likewise, the activity and interest you present in your stakeholders’ opinions will encourage further investment and attention for your project from the public, making the communication initiative more than a welcome addition.
To summarize, stakeholders that are kept in the loop (informed, engaged and have trust in your business) are likely to advocate for your brand to their social and professional networks. As with content marketing or social media management, communicating with your stakeholders should be a dynamic, two-way activity which takes place for the benefit of your final product/service and its performance on the open market. Find ways to meaningfully initiate discussion and flow of information with your stakeholders – the satisfaction and expectations they exhibit will strike a healthy balance as a result.
Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she works as a freelance writer at TopEssayWriting and ClassyEssay, Kristin also does some editing work at WriteScout.
To learn more, check out our webinar, 5 Ways to Engage Project Stakeholders with Elizabeth Harrin.