Skip to content

Stakeholder Participation (Part 2)

January 28, 2010

Originally posted on 1/27/10

In Part 1, we looked at what happens when balanced stakeholder participation isn’t present on a project. In this post, we’ll examine what balanced stakeholder participation looks like and how securing it can improve the chances for project success at an organization.

Balance in this context means securing participation and input from three broad categories of stakeholders:

  1. IT Functions – These encompass the traditional technology disciplines, such as system analysis, architecture, application development, network operations, help desk/service desk, end user computing, and quality assurance, and may also include business analysis and project management (depending on how these functions are structured at an organization).
  2. Corporate Governance Functions – These encompass disciplines involved in monitoring and controlling the activity of an organization, such as legal, records management, information management, ethics and compliance, audit, internal investigations, master data management, human resources, and aspects of finance
  3. Business Functions – These are all functions (front- and back-office) not included in IT and corporate governance functions.

Because each of these groups has distinctive (and often competing) interests, motivations, and goals, the project team is forced to find a middle-ground acceptable to all…and to consider the issues from a viewpoint that transcends the more narrow view of any one group and considers corporate-level concerns.

In the shared drive example from Part 1, balanced stakeholder participation would have changed the outcome considerably.

Although there are many ways this participation could be activated (depending on a host of organizational factors), at a minimum, the request for a new shared drive would be triaged to determine whether its likely impact to the organization warrants a review by a cross-functional team of SMEs drawn from IT and corporate governance functions. Such a review would typically be a 60 minute meeting to discuss the proposed initiative with representatives from the business unit in question.

At the very least, having this kind of discussion about the goals of the initiative with a group drawn from IT, the business unit, and a cross-section of governance functions (legal, records management, audit, compliance) would likely have brought some of the key issues to light from the start:

  • What will get moved to the new drive and what will not?
  • What will the division of labor between the new and old drives be?
  • What is the risk profile of the documents the business unit proposes to move (from the perspectives of litigation, records management, compliance, and audit)?

Whether or not this cross-functional group has the authority to tell the business unit how to settle these issues, they are now at least surfaced—so if the business unit decides (against the counsel of the group) to make a mess of the new drive, legal, records management, IT, etc. can note it as a risk. When a future event involves this shared drive (like a litigation), the folks involved will still have a mess on their hands, but it will be a known mess.

Unless something goes horribly wrong in the cross-functional meeting, however, in most cases the business unit will be glad to have input from these other players. “We’d like to do the right thing, but no one can tell us what that is” or “we get mixed messages on what the right thing to do is”—two complaints I hear frequently in my practice from business units regarding corporate policies and procedures (e.g., legal, records management, compliance, audit).

Balanced stakeholder participation of the kind described here works because of the competing (yet ultimately complementary) interests of the three groups involved. The solution that emerges from a project with balanced stakeholder participation does not meet the needs of any one party 100%—but if done properly, it will meet the needs of each group 75% and be a fitting solution for the organization as a whole because it has been crafted in light of the needs of these three core groups.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s