How to Improve Project Stakeholder Engagement in 4 Steps

How to Improve Project Stakeholder Engagement in 4 Steps

March 11, 2021 by

Building a strong relationship with stakeholders is critical to project success.

After all, a stakeholder is defined ‘as any person or group of people who have an interest in, can influence, or will be affected by any planned changes in an organization.


Watch: 3 Ways to Optimize Your Project Portfolio Processes


Engaging your stakeholders early in the project is key to successful outcomes.

In this article, we’ll cover a four-step process to help you identify and engage project stakeholders.

You’ll also see how to leverage BrightWork to automate elements of stakeholder communication using SharePoint On-Premises.

Who are Project Stakeholders?

As mentioned above, project stakeholders are people, groups, or organizations who may be impacted by the project or can impact the project itself.

Stakeholders are divided into internal or external groups.

Internal stakeholders can include:

  • The Project Management Office (PMO)
  • The project team
  • The project sponsor
  • Business departments such as IT, finance, or procurement
  • Managers and team leaders
  • Subject matter experts
  • Quality assurance teams
  • Marketing and Sales.


External stakeholders can refer to:

  • Suppliers
  • Customers
  • Consultants
  • Subcontractors
  • The local community
  • Government agencies and departments
  • Special interest groups
  • Media.


As you can see, project stakeholders represent a diverse group of individuals, interests, and influence!

Whilst balancing the needs and expectations of your stakeholders is not an easy task, stakeholder engagement is critical to project success.

Stakeholder engagement begins as soon as the project charter is approved and before work commences.

This ensures stakeholders understand the project from the outset and are ready to lend their support.

As the project progresses, you’ll prioritize different stakeholder groups based on the particular phase of the project. We’ll take a closer look at this later on.

Why are Project Stakeholders Important?

Project stakeholders exert considerable influence over your project and within your organization.

If project stakeholders are not committed to the project, they may become a source of risk within the project.

With stakeholder support, it’s easier to:

  • Secure buy-in for the project at all levels.
  • Gain access to expertise and knowledge throughout your project.
  • Assign the right resources to your project.


Your goal is to increase support for the project and minimize resistance to your work.

Constant feedback and inputs from stakeholders also increase the likelihood that the outcome of the project will meet the needs of your end-users.

Stakeholder satisfaction is a metric of project success and can span beyond the completion of the project itself as individuals use the product or service generated by your team.

The key to stakeholder engagement is consistent communication from the project team, not just the project manager.

Every stakeholder will have expectations and definitions of success; it is your role to bridge the gap between these views and the reality of the project.

Creating a stakeholder engagement strategy involves four principal steps:

  1. Define and identify your stakeholders.
  2. Analyze your stakeholders in terms of interest and influence.
  3. Plan your engagement strategy.
  4. Implement and measure your strategy.


Let’s take a closer look at each stage.

How to Improve Project Stakeholder Engagement in 4 Steps

1. Define and Identify Your Stakeholders

As soon as the project charter is approved, start working with your team to define and identify your stakeholders.

Use the list of internal and external groups above as a starting point and review project documentation, such as the project plan, and stakeholder data from previous projects.

2. Analyze Your Stakeholders

At this point, you’ve likely generated a long list of project stakeholders and are wondering how to work with everyone!

You don’t have to engage every stakeholder equally at every point in the project. Instead, group stakeholders based on:

  • Authority or power.
  • Interest in the outcomes of the project.
  • Ability to influence the project or cause changes to the project.


You should generate a power-interest grid. This will help you to figure what type of engagement is needed and when.

Stakeholder Power Interest Grid BrightWork


  • Keep Satisfied: Stakeholders with high power and less interest.

Keep these individuals engaged without sharing too much information about the project.

Try to move these stakeholders into the ‘Manage Closely’ group.


  • Manage Closely: High power, high-interest stakeholders.

Collaborate frequently with these key players.


  • Monitor: Low power, low-interest stakeholders.

Keep these individuals engaged without sharing too much information about the project.


  • Keep Informed: Low power, high-interest stakeholders.

Engage this group regularly to maintain their interest and gather inputs.


Another factor to consider is directions or spheres of influence. It looks something like this:

  • Upward, for example, senior management.
  • Downward, for example, the project team and subject matter experts.
  • Outward, for example, groups who are external to the team such as suppliers
  • Sideward, for example, other project managers who may also need resources at the same time.


Compile this information into a stakeholder register, a list of stakeholder contact details and information about their role in the project.

It’s a good idea to store the stakeholder register in a central document library so everyone on the team has access to it.

Do bear in mind that you will need to periodically update your stakeholder list and groupings. Stakeholders may leave your company, new groups may become more relevant as work progresses, and so on.

3. Plan Your Engagement Strategy

With this information, create your engagement plan.

Using surveys, meetings, or focus groups, spend some time with your stakeholder to answer questions such as:

  • Are they fully aware of the planned project?
  • What is their definition of project success?
  • How will the project outcome impact their work?
  • What motivates them?
  • How do they like to stay up-to-date with projects?
  • Can they identify potential enablers and barriers to project success?


Next, create or update the project communication plan to incorporate stakeholder engagement.

A RACI matrix is a useful way to clarify who needs to see what information and when, and who is responsible for making key decisions.

You’ll also need to think about:

  • Conflict: How you will manage conflicting views and expectations?
  • Responsibilities: Who is responsible for managing stakeholder communication?
  • Change Management: How will you address change requests from stakeholders?
  • Metrics: What are the measurements of successful engagement?

4. Implement and Measure Engagement

At this point, it’s time to implement your plan and schedule key communication activities.

Communication should:

  • Address stakeholder expectations.
  • Resolve any issues or change requests.
  • Drive the engagement required for successful outcomes.
  • Encourage a sense of ownership for the project.


As you’ll see in the next section, using project management software can make this step much easier!

You’ll also need to draw on skills such as active listening, conflict management, and negotiation to keep stakeholders in the loop.

It’s important to monitor the impact of communication and make regular adjustments to maintain the required levels of engagement.

This is a simple as sending a survey or having a quick meeting with key stakeholders to collect their feedback.

Using BrightWork  to Simplify Stakeholder Engagement

Project management software like BrightWork 365 for Microsoft 365, makes it easier to engage with stakeholders with real-time dashboards and automated email reports.


Real-time Dashboards

BrightWork 365 provides a series of project, program, and portfolio reporting dashboards in Power BI, delivering visibility across all the projects in an organization.

This gives project stakeholders immediate, transparent insight into their project – without having to ask for a report from you!

BrightWork 365 PPM Software for Microsoft 365


Data from individual project sites roll up into real-time dashboards for an ‘at-a-glance report on health’ across all projects.


Share Status Reports

Using the Project Status Report, it’s easy to track indicators for % Complete, Health, Cost, Time, and Scope, and log comments about progress on a regular basis. Once the latest report is complete, simply select ’email report to project sponsor’ to share the update. 


Image credit 

Grace Windsor
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