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The Value of Engaging Stakeholders

Last year, three particular projects in which I was involved with clients was focused on managing the change management and communication process for large technology projects the clients were undertaking within the organization.

I’d like to focus this article on one of those projects where the client did not quite recognize the need for change and communication management. Yes, they asked me to come in and help them kick off the change and communication management process. But, as I learned soon after working with them, they did so because a vendor told them they needed to focus in that area so the project (a Customer Relationship Management system) would be a success. Let me first outline the challenges faced early on working with the client and then how we turned things around to better engage stakeholders.


Although the project started in May, 2014; the client did not bring me in until early July, 2014. And that was due to continuous pressure from the vendor that the client was not engaging stakeholders for the project.

During my first planning meeting with the client, I outlined some steps I take to engage stakeholders – starting immediately. Because the project was not being implemented for another 7 months, the client felt that it was too early to engage stakeholders as it would distract them from their work and there was not a tremendous amount to share on the project yet. The client felt if they waited until a couple of months before the project was launched, that would be sufficient. I respectfully disagreed and provided them some background of clients who have taken the initiative to engage stakeholders earlier rather than later. I also shared that CRM implementations can be particularly difficult to launch because it is essential to get the buy-in of the users – in this case primarily sales and marketing. Executives simply telling employees that they will use the system does not guarantee that they will use the system.

I also suggested that we might engage them in ways that are not distracting but rather simply provides them a “heads up” about the upcoming project and why it was being done. I suggested we engage immediately and check in after a month to see if stakeholders felt that they were being “bombarded” by information about the project.

Engaging the Stakeholders

The client agreed and I prepared my outline for how we would engage the client over the duration of the project, working collaboratively with the project manager and their in-house internal communication point of contact. The table[1] below depicts how we would engage various stakeholders over a one month time period.

Stakeholder Group





All (org wide)

  • Information about the project
  • The objective of implementing CRM
  • Alignment to the org strategy
  • Timing for implementation
  • Overview of training
  • Request for employees to join a Stakeholder Support Committee


Second week in July

Town Hall Meeting

Follow up via email and information on the company portal

Additional follow up via email regarding signing up to participate in a Stakeholder Support Committee

SVP Sales
SVP Marketing


  • Value of CRM for sales
  • Benefits to sales people
  • How the CRM system will be used
  • Training that will be provided and timing
  • Request for assistance on outlining processes associated with the new CRM

Third week in July

Sales off-site meeting

SVP Sales
VP Sales
Regional Sales Directors


  • Value of CRM for marketing
  • Benefits to marketing people
  • How the CRM system will be used
  • Training that will be provided and timing
  • Request for assistance on outlining processes associated with the new CRM

Third week in July

Marketing department meeting

SVP Marketing

Twenty (20) people signed up to be part of the Stakeholder Support Committee. These were individual contributors as well as some mid managers from throughout the organization – all departments represented. We held the first Stakeholder Support Committee meeting in early August. The goal of the meeting was to discuss the role of the Stakeholder Support Committee. The role and responsibilities included:

  • Assisting in “spreading the word” about the new CRM system and sharing information about the project
  • Providing the sponsor and the project team with the challenges brought up from employees and their concerns about the project
  • Providing information about current processes and how those processes might have to be changed and/or refined to accommodate the new CRM system
  • Functioning as a pilot group to test the system and new processes
  • Provide input as needed about how to promote the new system, training needed, and roll out

After a month, the client saw that there was significant input from the Stakeholder Support Committee about the project. They were sharing quite a bit of information about concerns, challenges and thoughts of the employees from throughout the organization. Additionally, they provided valuable feedback about the type of training that would be needed.

Additionally, the sales people as well as the marketing employees – both groups who would be primary users of the CRM system – seemed more comfortable with the project. They were willing to review current processes to make necessary changes and were providing significant feedback to the project team.

Overall, the sponsor was pleased with the results of the change and communication management plan and saw the value in continuing. A brief survey conducted showed that stakeholders did not feel like they were being over-communicated with and, in fact, were happy that much information was shared with them.

We continued with the engagement of stakeholders, primarily through the Stakeholder Support Committee. This group met bi-weekly about the project and were an invaluable resource for the sponsor and the project team.

[1] This table has been modified to remove confidential information and only a select few stakeholders are included.

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