Getting Stakeholders On-Board & Engaged!

Having worked with many clients on multiple ERP implementations and upgrades, we have witnessed first-hand how stakeholders can positively or negatively affect a project.  By definition, stakeholders should help support and protect your ERP project, whether it is an initial implementation or an ERP upgrade.  However, one of the key mistakes many project teams make is to wrongly identify the stakeholders and, unfortunately, this is often realised only when it is too late.

Not too sure where to start?  We have put together a handy checklist for you to review to help get the right stakeholders on-board.

Who to Choose

Stakeholders are there to help support the project, protect the investment and help fight any battles that may come your way.  It is important to have coverage in these 3 areas:

  • Primary Team Stakeholders – they are the main decision makers within the program, this could be the IT Manager or CIO
  • Secondary Team Stakeholders – they are likely to be Line-of-Business specific, such as a Financial Director or Manufacturing Director
  • Tertiary Stakeholders – they are not often involved in the immediate project, but will be affected further down the line.  For example, Sales Directors or Logistics Directors

What to look for in a Stakeholder

Once you have worked out your three areas, you need to find the individual stakeholders.  Of course the stakeholder has to be a senior member of the team, but useful traits to look for are:

  • Approachable Nature – ERP projects will have their ups and downs so you need to be able to approach the stakeholders to tell them the situation without being concerned about their reaction
  • Time – the size and impact of the project dictates the amount of time an individual will need to be involved, so have a general idea, and make sure the stakeholder has the time to dedicate to the project
  • Interest in the Project – without enthusiasm for the project and a willingness to be involved, the stakeholder is unlikely to be useful
  • Commitment – this is probably the most important trait!  The stakeholder must not only commit to the length of the project, (as we all know some ERP projects can take years) but must be willing to commit to the project, even if another opportunity presents itself.

What to Avoid in a Stakeholder

  • Stirring Behaviour – in every company there are a few directors or senior managers who enjoy playing devil’s advocate and arguing against points to encourage debate.  Whilst this may be useful in expressing an opinion, these individuals are not good stakeholders for your project as they can often change points of views on the fly, forcing your project down a rat run
  • Frequent Flyers – your stakeholder maybe a good choice, but if they are constantly travelling (2 trips or more a week) it may be very difficult to get feedback and have them attend meetings.  If they have the other desirable behaviours listed above, then consider bringing then on as project mentor or sponsor.
  • Wannabes – these are the individuals who want to go places, they are aspiring to be the next influential leader.  Chances are they will talk a big talk but are easily swayed by more senior staff and, more than likely, drop the project if something better comes up.

How to Get Them On-Board

  • Enthuse – use your business case to help bring the stakeholder on-board. Take time to think about what motivates them.  For example, if your stakeholder is in finance, then link it to the financial objectives and business needs.  This also works well for software functionality – bring out the attributes of the upgrade or implementation that will personally affect them and their department
  • Involve – it is obvious to say – but make sure you do use your stakeholders!  Consult with them, get them to contribute and seek their input
  • Buddy up – pair a stakeholder to a member of the project team.  This helps build rapport, strengthen relationships and maintains on-going interaction
  • Communicate – this is critical, make your updates regular and thorough and use a variety of mediums such as email, conference calls and group meetings

And finally, review your stakeholders regularly … Are they delivering what you need?  Be prepared that they may have a job role change.  Try and avoid general attrition or apathy but above all have a back-up plan should you lose someone on the way.


Useful Links

How to build a business case for your ERP Project

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