Whether internal or external, all of the projects that you manage have stakeholders. One of the main reasons projects fail is because the deliverables were not what the customer wanted or they did not meet the customer’s needs. To ensure project success, it helps that you know all of the key stakeholders on your project, how they prefer to communicate, what their needs are, and what the acceptable end results are.

Engaging stakeholders during—and especially at the beginning of—your project will help reduce and uncover risks and increase their “buy-in.” When stakeholders are adequately engaged, their influence spreads far and wide. Some of the ways stakeholders are important to a project are as follows.

1. Providing Expertise
Stakeholders are a wealth of knowledge about current processes, historical information, and industry insight. Many times these team members will have been at the company or on the project longer than the project manager or project team. It’s important to involve all key stakeholders when gathering and documenting requirements to avoid missing major deliverables of the project. Project managers, or others who are in charge of deliverables, may not be experts on every project. Key stakeholders can provide requirements or constraints based on information from their industry that will be important to have when understanding project constraints and risks.

2. Reducing and Uncovering Risk
The more you engage and involve stakeholders, the more you will reduce and uncover risks on your project. When discussing initial requirements, project needs, and constraints, stakeholders may bring up issues or concerns about meeting those things. Uncovering risks and then discussing a plan to mitigate them before issues arise will dramatically increase the success of your project. Involving knowledgeable stakeholders during this process will help.

3. Increasing Project Success
By gathering and reviewing project requirements with stakeholders, you will get their “buy-in,” which will in turn help increase project success. If you can’t meet stakeholders’ needs, due to conflicting needs or priorities, set expectations early in the project life cycle. This will help you manage the relationship throughout the project instead of there being surprises at the end. Stakeholders should always be aware of the project scope, key milestones, and when they will be expected to review any deliverables prior to final acceptance.

4. Granting Project Acceptance
The more regularly you engage and involve stakeholders from the start, the more likely you will have a positive project conclusion. By the end of the project, the team members should have already been aware of delivery expectations, risks, and how to mitigate the risks. They also should have reviewed draft deliverables along the way. This process should help avoid any surprises at the end of your project. The final acceptance is just their final stamp of approval during the project closure phase.

Make sure that you consider all key stakeholders as a part of your project team. They all will bring value and expertise to help ensure your project is a success!