How to identify MNC or NC

The stakeholder iceberg

Stakeholder management is an important task for every project manager. The aim is to explain the importance of the project to everyone affected by a project and to convey the project goals, as well as to understand the requirements of the stakeholders and to solicit their support. The project manager becomes a diplomat, lobbyist and politician on his own behalf. It is also his job to identify all relevant stakeholders.

First there are usually the client and the project sponsor. In addition, depending on the type and size of the project, there are program management, IT security, the technical supervisor of the project manager, operations management, possibly the works council, and then of course the operational teams that are actively involved in the project. But with stakeholders it is like an iceberg with 70% below the surface of the water. Many stakeholders are not recognizable as such at first glance, and yet they have a great influence on the success of a project.

On the one hand, there are the technical superiors of the project staff. Sometimes they try to influence the project through their employees in order to advance their own initiatives. The second group of hidden stakeholders are those people who are directly affected by the project results, for example the future users of software. Their interests should be taken into account by official representatives in the project, but especially when the project affects a large number of employees, it is almost impossible to do justice to all individual interests. It would be a big mistake to believe that a single employee has no influence on a project. Even a cleverly placed rumor about an allegedly bad project progress can stir up considerable doubts, which in turn creates a lot of effort on the part of the project management to straighten the reputation of the project. A third stakeholder group that should not be overlooked are external service providers and suppliers. Anyone who has ever been in the situation of having to buy special hardware or software for a project knows the scramble among suppliers behind the scenes. Resourceful sales staff try to influence management, purchasing or the specialist department so that the project decides on their product and not that of the competitor. But even if the software has then been bought, the influence does not end, because once a company has one foot in the door, it will try to place further products.

We have not yet reached the end of the list of possible stakeholders, even if the examples are now admittedly very special. There are projects in which there is a public interest. Examples are the development of the Corona warning app, the construction of the Berlin airport or, a few years ago, the development of the motorway toll system. At the latest when such a project does not go as planned, it calls the media and their reporting on the plan. And whenever public funds are involved, there are also the interests of politics, which pursues its own goals and tries to serve its own clientele.

Of course, project managers will rarely be in public with their work. A few years ago, however, I had to experience for myself how quickly one can get into such a situation by accident. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the financial crisis, I managed a project at Hypo Real Estate (HRE), the bank that was hardest hit by the financial crisis in Germany and was therefore constantly present in the German media. At that time, HRE had decided to move into new and cheaper offices on the outskirts of Munich in order to soften the already negative reporting. On the IT side, I was responsible for moving 1,200 workstations, and for weeks, like all the other HRE employees, I was greeted at the main entrance by a group of media representatives who were only too happy to learn more about what was going on internally . But here the stakeholder management was carried out elsewhere, and I was very happy about that.

Stakeholder management is not always the focus when one speaks of project management. Nevertheless, it is extremely important for the success of a project. Project managers who do not feel comfortable in this park have a hard time. At the beginning of my career, I didn't want to have to explain to everyone more or less involved why we were carrying out a project. Eventually it was approved by the company's management and that should be enough to get the necessary support from the individual departments in the company. Today I know that it doesn't work without networking, diplomacy and negotiating skills.

Photo: Hubert Neufeld on