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Improving Stakeholder Communications in a Project

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2015-07-22_Stakeholder-communicationCoLAB Project Management looks at the importance of effective stakeholder communication and how project managers can advance communications using best practices and technology.

All projects have stakeholders, even the very smallest initiatives. Stakeholder communication is a core competency of project management. Studies have shown that successful communication in a project is one of the most crucial factors for success. When properly executed, it connects every member of a project team to common strategies, goals and actions, and allows project managers to head off potential problems.

Improper communication can easily jeapordise a project. In reality, not all projects succeed. PMI’s 2013 Pulse of the Profession report revealed that an average of two in five projects do not meet their original goals and one-half of those unsuccessful projects are related to ineffective communications.

Stakeholder communication helps an organisation to achieve its strategic objectives by involving both the external and internal environments and by creating a positive relationship with stakeholders through good management of their expectations. In such a complex and competitive business environment, organisations simply cannot afford to overlook this key component.

For most project managers, the process for stakeholder management is to map influence and interest, then work to try to move any negative stakeholders into the quadrant where they should be through interesting communication approaches and stressing the project benefits for them. But how do we improve these communication approaches?

1. Using formal communications plans

Informal communication often makes up the bulk of overall communication for most project teams. However a formalised communication plan can improve efficiency and accuracy of communications to stakeholders and avoid conflict. It is critical for project managers to seek to understand what stakeholders desire, both spoken and unspoken.

To ensure that effective communication is applied throughout a project, a communication plan should be incorporated at the planning stage of the project. The formal communications plan identifies the kinds of communication required, the stakeholders and their requirements, the frequency of communications, the kinds of communication and the most advantageous communications channels.

The plan should be adaptable and suitable to all stakeholders, allowing project communications to operate under all conditions.

2. Tailoring communication language for different stakeholder groups

Successful project managers understand that all stakeholder groups need to have a clear vision for the project and recognise project progress at every point. This requires the appropriate level of clarity and detail in communications across the organisation; however various stakeholder groups use language differently and require different levels of detail. Identifying these differences and changing communications accordingly offers a significant improvement in understanding for all stakeholders.

For example, an in-depth report that focuses too much on project details for a stakeholder who only wants bottom line results might raise questions or concerns that can delay milestones and send productivity spiralling.

3. Utilising tools and technology

Communications can be challenging when dealing with numerous stakeholders in various locations. Visibility of the project, goals, and actions all need to be relayed clearly and efficiently. Breakdowns in these communications can see delays in important decisions and activities, misunderstandings, and ineffective management. Project managers are constantly seeking smooth and prompt communication which can be effectively aided by technology.

Online project management and collaboration software such as PPO ( can assist project managers in communicating rapidly and effortlessly and resolve crucial matters can instantly. Both project teams and stakeholders have far greater visibility of the status of work, projects, programs and portfolios and certain alerts and communications can be automated to easily keep teams informed. Such transparent sharing of information enables a better bonding between a business and its stakeholders, improving stakeholders’ participation in a project.

‘Traditional’ tools for stakeholder analysis and engagement should not be neglected, but stakeholders should be made an integral part of a project team and communicated with as such.

“Irrespective of actual project outcome, stakeholders who have been engaged and whose expectations have been managed are far likelier to perceive a project as a success than those who have been ignored.” Richard Newton

If you would like to know more about stakeholder management, please contact CoLAB: Tel +27 86 111 4576 or email

CoLAB Project Implementation is a mid-sized project implementation consultancy with a healthy reputation for achieving project success. Our niche focus and track record allows us to leverage our practical approach, people and capability to the benefit of our clients. We focus on operational returns and getting the job done by taking accountability for the results and keeping it simple.

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