How your project can benefit from the collective knowledge of the crowd

The clever project manager has understood for a very long time that there is a secret to planning a successful project. This secret can be found in ‘the crowd’.

In other words, the success of your project is not just about following the right process, it’s also about involving the right people in the process.

These people are your stakeholders and they have valuable input — information, insights, views and a fresh perspective. In other words, they can play a vital role in making sure you don’t miss anything important.

It’s also important that you keep them on side, so they support your project rather than block progress.

It crucial that you identify and involve them in the process early. They will play an important role throughout the life of the project (read more about the six steps of managing projects).

Identify your stakeholders

You need to find out who is affected by your project or who has the power to make the project succeed or fail.

Sometimes the list will be very short, and other times it will be longer. And sometimes it may take you a few minutes to write the list, and other times you may need to brainstorm with colleagues. But it’s vital that you do it. Leaving someone out could be seriously damaging to your project.

To help you identify your stakeholders you can ask yourself (or brainstorm with your team): who is impacted directly and indirectly by the project?

Find out what they need

Once you’ve identified your stakeholders, you need to talk to them, to find out what they need from the project (their requirements).

Each stakeholder may need the project to do different things and can offer insights from a different perspective and an expert view.

There are many ways you can get their input. The most valuable is the face-to-face meeting — where you get all the stakeholders together in the one room to brainstorm. It’s a chance to benefit from the collective knowledge of your organisation in the one session.

Failing that, you can also conduct interviews. This gives you a good depth of information, but it takes more time. You may want to prioritise the most important decision makers and subject experts for this.

The least engaging method of all is email — only to be used as a last resort or for low-priority stakeholders.

It’s crucial that you are as comprehensive at this stage as possible. Anything you miss here may derail the project later on.

When it comes to documenting the information you can make your life much easier by using the right software. When you use white boards or post-it notes you’ll have to put in extra hours retyping, and making sense of, hastily written notes. With the right software you can record in the session and by using a projector or big screen, everyone can see the information you capture, and you can even start to group and analyse the information in collaboration with stakeholders, saving you even more time.

A simpler and easier approach to project management

The above information is just one step in a six step process that makes managing projects from start to finish simpler and easier.

The Six Step Guide to Practical Project Management strips back professional project management processes to the absolute basics without sacrificing the vital ingredients for a successful project — to hit your deadlines, stay in cost and deliver big benefits to your organisation (and career).

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