I learned two lessons this week that are unrelated. I learned that there truly are unforeseen conditions. As part of a bigger project, we were moving a HIV research team out of a building that we are renovating. We learned in the 10th hour that the space we were going to move them into was unacceptable because it contained remnant HIV DNA. The remnant DNA is harmless, but it will compromise their research. No one saw that one coming.
The second lesson is related to the topic that I’ll discuss this week, which is the benefit of using a stakeholder register. I learned that it is never too early to issue one to your team. We recently kicked off a feasibility study for a renovation project. Without including me in the loop, a consultant emailed various campus personnel that aren’t related to our project for information about the project. The people he contacted couldn’t help him, but obviously he didn’t know that. If I had provided a stakeholder register to my team earlier, he would have known whom to contact and we could have saved time and aggravation. This blog post will discuss stakeholder registers and the benefits of using them.
Stakeholder Register Definition
While studying for the PMP exam, the reasons for using a register seemed like a good ones:
- Identify all stakeholders on the project
- Define their expertise and responsibilities
- Define their influence on the project budget and schedule.
As a structural engineer, the number of stakeholders that I interacted with on a project was limited. I didn’t need a register because there were so few.
That changed last year when I started working for the state, I was overloaded with the number of people I didn’t know. There was “Big Joe,” “Little Joe,” and “Shoeless Joe,” an engineer, architect, and the IT guy. I couldn’t keep them straight, let alone what impact they might have on my project. Eventually over the course of several months, and with the help of the telephone directory, I learned the expertise and responsibilities of each “Joe.”
Unlike me though, my architect and engineer consultants, do not have the luxury of several months to learn stakeholder names and roles. They need to know whose decision will influence their schedule and their budget at the project onset.
Recently, I created a stakeholder register template with all of the internal stakeholders that have influenced my projects so far. One of my loyal readers suggested that we use it on an upcoming project. So last week we went over it at our kick-off meeting.
Below is a screen shot of the register. All of the columns are pretty straightforward, but the influence and interest columns are open for interpretation. I define influence as how much the stakeholder’s decisions can affect budget or schedule or both. As far as interest, the stakeholder can be a champion, supporter, or neutral. On typical projects, campus stakeholders are neutral unless it is their project.
Identification of Impact
At the kick off meeting, I went over the stakeholders who regulate campus design and construction projects. We discussed the stakeholders that would be involved in their project and what phase of the project they’d be involved with. For example, some stakeholders are not involved until the construction phase, while others are involved in all phases.
Over the course of the meeting we talked about each stakeholders influence on the project. I had initially indicated in the register my understanding of influence, but with the client’s help we adjusted the influence rating of a few people.
Everyone has a boss, and the designer’s worst nightmare could be that they think they are talking to the decision maker (but aren’t). I’ve been on projects where the architect had completed a significant portion of the design only to find out that their “client” wasn’t the decision maker. A higher-level stakeholder vetoed the design which in turn required the architect to redesign the project. During the meeting, I used this opportunity to ask my client if he is the final decision maker (he is -but depending on the client that can be a difficult question to ask).
The Unknown Stakeholder
By the end of the meeting, we had come up with four more stakeholders to add to the register. One key person that I had forgotten to include in the register was the building contact. Our project includes the renovation of one floor of the building with a group that is unrelated to the rest of the building. During design we will loop the building contact into our final plans. And during construction it will be vital to regularly communicate with this stakeholder, so that he can warn the building occupants of construction noise and HVAC system outages.
At the end of the meeting, the architect noted that the register was very helpful to them. They know who is going to impact their project and when and they feel they can better manage the needs of the University (but they have say nice things to me). Seriously though, I do hope the register is helpful to them.
I’m always interested in hearing about unknown stakeholders. Tell me about one of yours in the comments below.