Importance of Stakeholder Management – Amplified in the pandemic

Anirudh Sundareshwar outlines how managing stakeholders is well-served via effective communication.

SIG University Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) program graduate Anirudh Sundareshwar outlines how managing stakeholders is well-served via effective communication.

A generic definition of stakeholder management is “Stakeholder management involves taking into consideration the different interests and values stakeholders have and addressing them during the duration of the project to ensure that all stakeholders are happy at the end.” It is important to understand that this may not always be true, especially in projects where multiple stakeholders and personal stakes are involved.

However, it is essential to ensure that most stakeholders are happy with the project's end result or initiative you are working on. That is not accomplished only by the end result but builds up along the project's lifespan.

As we have learned, one of the most critical tenets of stakeholder management is communication. It is vital to know what to communicate to whom, when to communicate and how to communicate, especially to senior stakeholders. This is an art and not easily achievable. Even more so in the current scenario where most people work remotely and do not have the advantage of picking up cues (verbal/non-verbal) as you would have in the pre-COVID era. Stakeholder management in our world involves both internal and external stakeholders, of course.

Communication Strategy

For important initiatives,  a procurement professional must invest time in building a communication strategy followed by a redesign of plans & templates to suit the virtual meeting format and eventually deploy. Since this is new to both you and the recipient, it is vital that you actively seek feedback to assess your communication effectiveness.

Ensure that the feedback received is analyzed (communication vehicle analysis), and you update your plans/templates. As covered in the modules, a good rule of thumb is to communicate three different ways, and a handy tool is the rule of 9’s, as illustrated below.

Communication upward is generally easier than communication sideways/downwards or outward. On the external communication, in today's times when the economy is not great and negative decisions may hurt more than they earlier did….as a responsible procurement professional, I would urge that one be sensitive while remaining factual.

For example, communication of not to award to a supplier who has invested heavily in bidding for what could have been a cornerstone project for them is best done when you communicate with data to help them understand where there was an opportunity for them to improve and what they could have done better in general.

The Correct Channels of Communication

The communication channels are also key, and a conversation backed by emails and system generated messages is generally recommended in such situations. Apart from cushioning a tough message, all of this projects you as someone who has invested the time in analyzing the response, is socially aware and has their best interests in your view. 

In summary, communication is probably the most significant aspect of stakeholder alignment and relations. To ensure success in these unprecedented times, my advice would be to remain as flexible as you can to learn from experiments of communications and alter course, as may be suited for the situation. It is not a one size fits all approach that should be taken.

Over-communicating via different channels and sending messages to your target audiences can never be a bad thing….all the more important in our current remote setup where recall of a phone conversation may not be the easiest (especially since there are so many now).

If you manage a team, I would also recommend investing time in aligning on communication strategy with the team to get a consistent message out. This ensures you are not inundating your stakeholders with multiple messages and causing confusion.

The Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) program is a 12-week course that focuses on the hard and soft skills of sourcing, including strategic sourcing and outsourcing methodologies, as well as best practices in negotiations.

Anirudh Sundareshwar, Director & Head of Sourcing, BNY Mellon

Anirudh Sundareshwar is the Director & Head of Sourcing at BNY Mellon.