Stakeholder engagement and innovation: finding the people to make your project a success

April's Innovation Breakfast is taking a look at stakeholder engagement in innovation. To give you a head start, we've put together this guide to identify your key project stakeholders.

Natalia Kassim
by Natalia Kassim
stakeholder engagement

Love it or hate it, stakeholder engagement is critical to your innovation efforts. It’s not just about keeping the right people happy – although that’s an integral part of the process. It’s also about keeping the right skills in the mix to make sure that your project not only gets finished but ends up a business success in the long term.

This can be a tricky balance. Keeping critical individuals out of the loop can crush your chances of project success. Throw too many into the mix, however, and you’ll slow the build and sign-off process to a grinding halt. To help you get it right, we’ve put together this useful stakeholder matrix that will keep you mindful of all the people you do (and don’t!) need to be involved in your project.

First, we’ll take a look at the four main categories of stakeholders before learning how to subdivide them by importance.

Implementers

If you want something built, you’re going to need someone to build it. And that’s precisely the type of people that make up our first stakeholder segment. This is going to be the developers, the project managers, the engineers – all the people you’ll need to actually get your project over the finish line. It can be more complicated than you think to work out who you’ll need to bring on board, so make sure you have an executive decision maker to help you identify which skills you’ll need in the mix. Be rigorous and always consider subsidiary skill sets like quality assessment, analytics, and continuous development.

Decision makers

There’s always somebody that needs to give you the green light. Here at Idea Drop, we like to call this person your top-level sponsor – somebody to champion your project at the highest level. They will help you make sure the appropriate resources are in place and help you resolve any challenges that might arise.

Remember that even if you’re the ultimate decision maker for your company, you’ll need sign off from finance and your board of directors before you can implement anything. We’re all beholden to somebody, and it’s essential you know who those people are before you start work. Figure out who your decision makers are even if you’re not the person who will be negotiating with them. It will have a big impact on the way you define and present your work.

Validators

There are some people who aren’t integral to making your project work but will make everything go much smoother if they have some level of input. Defining this group really depends on the nature of your project but may include input from areas like Marketing & Comms, IT & Technology, Legal and HR. It’s a challenge not only to identify them but also to decide what level of information or sign off they will require in order to contribute. Be careful with this segment – it’s one that can rapidly expand and get out of control if you don’t manage communications effectively.

Success promoters

The success of your project is more than just the success of your build. You’ll need support from all areas of the business to capitalise on the opportunity that your project represents. This is where your team ambassadors come in.

These innovation champions should be placed in departments around your business and integrated with your central innovation team. Their job is to motivate their departments to engage with your innovation project and see whether or not it can be useful in different parts of the company. You never know how your new product, technology or system could impact other parts of the business, or benefit from a different perspective. It could help you bring in a new client, achieve success with a different product, or improve efficiencies in a different area of the business.

Once you’ve identified each of the above groups as a whole, it’s worth deciding who, within each group, is critical to success and who is not. Here at Idea Drop, we further divide our stakeholder groups by importance to effectively manage our communications strategy. The groups we use are:

  • Needs to know
  • Should know
  • Wants to know
  • Doesn’t need to know

The last group might seem a little mean, but it’s just as important to work out who shouldn’t be included as who should. It takes resources to secure sign off and manage input from people, so if you can possibly avoid it, you should.

To learn more about key strategies for engaging stakeholders, visit us at our next Innovation Breakfast event – Stakeholder Engagement and Innovation – on the 11th of April in London. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

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