A challenge faced by project managers is identifying and analyzing the wants & desires of the stakeholders for their projects.
It’s hard enough to elicit full requirements from your primary project customer, but when you are trying to understand the over & hidden needs and concerns of stakeholders that may not be directly involved with your project this gets even murkier.
There are a variety of techniques that one can employ to gather requirements from stakeholders, but it is worth drawing attention to one method that might be overlooked: risk assessment.
Dr. David Hillson refers to risk as “uncertainty that matters” and it is the last word in that phrase that I am focusing on.
When you ask a stakeholder directly for his or her input or perceptions of your project, you may not get a straight or honest answer.
However, when you engage your stakeholders in a risk identification & assessment session, you may find that they will open up more than they would in a one-on-one setting.
When they are presented with a risk identified by someone else, pay attention to their assessment of its potential impact or probability – this can start to give you an idea of their overall bias towards or against your project as well as to understand what their specific “hot buttons” might be.
When their turn comes to identify or brainstorm risks, this can provide you with a glimpse into their concerns as well as their overall risk bias – both of these are useful inputs into your stakeholder analysis and can help you define the stakeholder management & communication approach that you’d want to use with them.
Stakeholder analysis can often feel like you are searching for enemy soldiers in a tunnel without the benefit of night-vision goggles, but appropriate use of risk identification and assessment techniques can help to shed some light on this crucial step in project planning.