How do I help manage multiple stakeholders and their priorities on large project teams?

We have so many different people, departments, and customers pulling in different directions, and everyone has ideas and opinions. How do I manage multiple stakeholders and their priorities on large project teams like this?
Your project teams will nearly always include multiple stakeholders. Projects of any size, and their solutions, impact multiple people, each of whom is a stakeholder (because they've got "something at stake" in the project and solution). But not all stakeholders are created equal, and not all have an equal vote in the details of the project, or the solution.

As soon as you start, use a tool such as a Stakeholder Analysis Summary Table to discover and get to know your stakeholders, and their roles and priorities within the business and the project team. The stakeholder analysis should also help you understand the best ways to interact, communicate, and stay connected with the stakeholders. For each stakeholder, draw up a list of their expectations and responsibilities, to ensure that they know exactly how much and what kind of "say" they'll have regarding the requirements process and the ultimate solution.

Throughout the project, it's important to communicate regularly with the stakeholders, to keep them informed of what's happening regarding the requirements, and to keep their expectations regarding their roles and responsibilities before them at all times.

On large projects, stakeholders are often keenly interested in one facet of the solution, but not the solution in its entirety. After you've broken down the analysis work into the right categories, functions, and processes, you'll be able to help the stakeholders manage their expectations. Stakeholders need to understand how their priorities for and influence on the solution within "their" portion differs from other aspects. Being crystal clear about where each person fits within the project, and their expected roles and contributions, will help.

Every stakeholder should be free to present ideas, express opinions, and identify risks or suggest changes. But not every stakeholder will be a decision maker. Be sure to establish a process for identifying and escalating ideas, risks, and changes. And make sure the stakeholders are clear about who will ultimately make the decisions.

When requirements or demands conflict, give highest priority to the requirements that most directly align with or add business value to the project's objectives. Strategic tools such as requirements traceability analysis will help you ensure that every requirement can be traced back to the high-level project objectives and vision statements.

Two important goals of business analysis are expectation setting, and laying the groundwork for prioritization based on business value rather than personal preferences and biases. When stakeholders hold conflicting priorities, these two strategies will help you achieve a harmonious solution.

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