Project stakeholders play a crucial role in the success of data analytics projects, especially in terms of ensuring alignment with business goals, providing support, and managing potential risks. Identifying these stakeholders is one of five things that are important to know before a project starts, according to Innovative Solutions Partner co-founder Mustansir Saifuddin, who has shepherded a multitude of such projects over the past two decades.
Stakeholders can come from various areas of the business; they understand the business and recognize the project’s significance in shaping the company’s future. These individuals actively engaging with the project team and communicate with champions at the leadership level.
Considerations for stakeholder involvement
When it comes to data analytics projects, here are a few considerations regarding stakeholder involvement:
Engaging stakeholders from the beginning
To ensure successful stakeholder involvement, it is essential to engage them from the project’s inception. This includes involving stakeholders during planning, requirements gathering and solution design.
By incorporating stakeholder perspectives early on, organizations can gain valuable insights, align project objectives with business needs, and increase stakeholder buy-in.
Further, when specifically seeking buy-in for data analytics projects, focus on the business impact and outcomes arising from an analytic approach, rather than any project deliverables, outputs or tasks.
Incorporating stakeholders from various business units and roles ensures clear understanding of the organization’s requirements and challenges.
For data analytics projects, consider involving stakeholders from departments like sales, finance, operations, and customer service. This diverse representation helps capture different perspectives, identify relevant data sources, and align analytics solutions with specific business processes.
Communication and collaboration
Stakeholders act as a bridge between the project team and the broader organization. They facilitate effective communication, ensuring that project requirements, progress, and outcomes are well understood by all stakeholders.
By maintaining open channels of communication, stakeholders gather feedback, address concerns, and promote collaboration among various business units and project team members.
Establishing effective communication channels and fostering collaboration are vital for stakeholder engagement. Regular status updates, project meetings, workshops, and feedback sessions enable stakeholders to provide input, ask questions, and share their insights. This iterative approach ensures continuous alignment between project objectives and stakeholder expectations.
Collaboration with SAP partners
Engaging with SAP partners, such as consulting firms or system integrators specializing in SAP data analytics projects, can offer insights into successful stakeholder engagement strategies. These partners often have experience working with different organizations and can share best practices, methodologies, and real-life examples specific to data analytics projects on SAP platforms.
A study by Gartner found that companies that used external IT experts for digital transformation projects had a higher success rate than those that relied solely on in-house resources. The study found that 52% of companies that used external experts had a successful outcome, compared with 27% of those that relied solely on in-house resources.
Alignment with business objectives
Stakeholders have a deep understanding of the organization’s objectives, strategies, and operations. They can effectively communicate the project’s importance in achieving those objectives to company leadership.
By ensuring leadership remains “on board,” stakeholders help maintain alignment between the project’s goals and the company’s overall strategic vision. This alignment fosters support, resource allocation, and a focus on long-term benefits.
According to a Gartner report from September 2022, “anticipated benefits must be tangible, quantifiable and desirable to the stakeholders, with the causal contributions of data and analytics clearly identified.”
Risk identification and management
Stakeholders bring a wealth of experience and expertise from different areas of the organization. Their involvement enables them to identify potential risks and challenges that the project team may overlook.
By leveraging their insights and industry knowledge, stakeholders can help the project team proactively address these risks. Their contributions can significantly improve risk management strategies, increase project resilience, and minimize the impact of unforeseen challenges.
Mitigating resistance to change
Change resistance is a common obstacle in IT projects. Stakeholders, being representative of various business units and roles, can help identify and address potential resistance points within the organization. They can provide valuable insights into the specific concerns and needs of different stakeholders, allowing the project team to tailor change management strategies accordingly.
By involving stakeholders in change management efforts, the project team can anticipate resistance and implement targeted strategies to mitigate its impact.
How project managers can engage stakeholders effectively
To ensure effective stakeholder engagement, project managers should consider the following practices:
Identify key stakeholders: Determine the individuals or groups who have a vested interest in the project’s success. This may include business users, project sponsors, vendors, and other relevant stakeholders. Engage them early in the project to establish open lines of communication.
Establish clear communication channels: Define effective communication channels to facilitate ongoing interactions between stakeholders and the project team. Regular status updates, progress reports, and feedback mechanisms can keep stakeholders informed and engaged throughout the project lifecycle.
Conduct stakeholder analysis: Analyze stakeholder expectations, influence, and potential impact on the project. This analysis helps project managers prioritize stakeholder engagement efforts and tailor communication strategies to address their specific needs.
Engage stakeholders in decision-making: Involve stakeholders in decision-making processes to ensure their perspectives are considered. This approach fosters a sense of ownership, encourages collaboration, and enhances stakeholder buy-in.
Monitor and manage stakeholder expectations: Continuously monitor stakeholder expectations and provide realistic updates on project progress, milestones, and potential challenges. By managing expectations proactively, project managers can maintain stakeholder support and manage potential risks more effectively.
Stakeholder engagement can be significant in project success. For example, a PMI Pulse of the Profession® report found that projects with actively engaged stakeholders were twice as likely to meet their goals and business intent. Similarly, a McKinsey study indicated that effective stakeholder engagement positively influences project success rates.
It is important to note that each organization and project may have unique stakeholder dynamics, and the strategies for stakeholder engagement can vary accordingly. Therefore, project managers should adapt these principles to their specific project context and leverage industry best practices to maximize stakeholder involvement.
Successful engagement with stakeholders is a continuous process that requires active participation, effective communication, and an understanding of their needs and expectations. By involving stakeholders as active partners throughout the project, organizations can enhance project outcomes, manage risks, and ensure the project’s alignment with the broader business objectives.
Overview: 5 Things to Know Before Starting a Data Analytics Project
PMI Pulse of the Profession report: Thought leadership report for project management
McKinsey Report: Digital Transformation: Rewiring for Digital and AI
Gartner: Use This 6-Step Approach To Get Buy-In for Data and Analytics Strategies