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Key Considerations for Improving PMO Stakeholder Engagement

Contributors: Cory Jackson

At the start of a new program, teams often sit in a room for months, sometimes years, trying to develop the right strategy regarding what technology to implement and which department to streamline, as well as develop an understanding of the budgetary requirements to get things done; but the stakeholders who will have to support, implement, and operationalize those changes are usually an afterthought. Many times, program leaders put all their onus on the success of the program, thinking more about what needs to happen and not spending nearly enough energy on to whom it’s happening. That is why building and maintaining stakeholder engagement throughout all phases of a program is the key component to ensuring the goals and projected ROI listed in a program’s business case are achieved. It’s proven that strong sponsorship engagement can be a differentiating factor when it comes to program management, with 62% of successfully completed projects having highly supportive sponsors. So, how can organizations improve Project Management Office (PMO) stakeholder engagement?

Improving PMO Stakeholder Engagement  

With various stakeholders, both internal and external, sustaining engagement can be challenging and add layers of complexity to any project. Taking the time to identify stakeholders and define a well-crafted strategy to engage them is the foundation that will ensure cross-functional collaboration, successful implementation, and stakeholder adoption of the changes that the program will bring across an organization.  

Identifying and Incorporating Stakeholders  

The first component to ensuring a good stakeholder strategy is understanding who they are by drafting a stakeholder map. This assists in the navigation of an organization’s political structure, identifying pressure points in the program and helping the organization gather a better understanding of who is being affected the most by the changes that are to come and who has the authority to authorize organizational shifts.    

Recognizing and prioritizing key stakeholders by their level of influence within the organization will allow for a tailored approach to their needs. This focused approach optimizes your energy and engagement efforts to align with those individuals who can have the largest impact. While stakeholder maps are typically created at the start of a program, it’s important to maintain this document throughout the program’s life cycle to ensure there is always continuity with messaging and structure, as well as a keen understanding of where the program is on the change spectrum.  

By doing this, organizations can ensure there’s always a clear understanding of how different inflection points throughout the program are affecting the stakeholders and also ensure alignment on expected outcomes. Maintaining this level of involvement during each phase of the program is critical to ensure collaboration between all project team members. This participation also keeps key stakeholders included in the decision-making process and allows them to make informed and result-driven decisions.  

Communication and Adaption 

Regular and recurring meetings are important to keep stakeholders knowledgeable and inform the team of any problems or pivots. A few essential meetings to schedule throughout the project are kick-off, project status, and stakeholder meetings. A kick-off meeting is critical since it’s held early in the project and sets the stage, outlining the timeline and highlighting the importance of the project to the company’s goals and growth. Project status meetings are intended to keep the project moving forward by having recurring sessions to keep an eye on the project schedule, along with discussing achievements, issues, and risks that have/may arise. Stakeholder meetings are used as a high touch point communication to provide a more focused and tailored project update. While many meetings occur throughout the project, having these meetings with the right people is key to ensuring transparency and project momentum.  

During these meetings, in addition to other communications (emails, presentations, project plans, kanbans, etc.), plain language with minimal use of jargon will support quick, transparent, and clear updates. This communication method is useful for stakeholders from all departments to be able to quickly digest material from meetings so everyone is on the same page. This transparency helps to ensure greater planning and flexibility throughout the program, aiding in problem-solving and helping to mitigate any issues before they happen or significantly reduce their impact. Overall, keeping stakeholders informed throughout the project will allow the team to be more proactive and less reactive. 

Stakeholder Recognition  

An often forgotten and underutilized tool is recognition. Rewarding and acknowledging stakeholders’ engagement and contributions ensures ongoing support and positive perceptions. This method cannot be exclusively used at the project’s end but instead must be used for milestones and accomplishments throughout the project. There are a variety of techniques, like positive, timely feedback or formal acknowledgment of contributions and rewards, that will help maintain continued support of the program and improve its efficiency. 

Improving Stakeholder Engagement in Your Program 

In an ideal world, every project would progress smoothly without speed bumps or roadblocks. Unfortunately, we all know that isn’t typical, and challenges will happen. Maintaining an engaged team with well-defined roles and responsibilities will allow them to identify and overcome challenges as they arise. In the end, being purposeful and transparent with stakeholders by including them in the decision-making process is key to navigating issues that will arise during the project. 

Deciding where to begin can be daunting. However, with several past projects across industries, Clarkston’s project management team has the expertise to help throughout any phase of your project. Our experts will assist the project management team, or lead it, to establish a roadmap and plan of action that fits your specific PMO needs to ensure you successfully achieve your goals.  


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Tags: Project & Program Management