Stakeholder engagement assessment matrix: What it is and how to use it

People sitting around a table in a stakeholder meeting

In project management, a project manager needs to handle project stakeholders well. The Stakeholder Engagement Assessment Matrix is a helpful tool for this. It helps project managers understand stakeholder interests and involvement.

In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of this matrix in managing projects. It helps figure out and manage stakeholder relationships for a successful project. By using the matrix, project managers can work better with stakeholders and create a team-friendly environment.

What is stakeholder engagement?

Stakeholder engagement is the process of involving and engaging stakeholders. The goal of stakeholder engagement is to keep stakeholders actively engaged and satisfied to ensure project success.

Every project has stakeholders. Some projects have lots of stakeholders, and others have a few. For example, a lean software development project might only have a few stakeholders, while a mega project in infrastructure construction can involve a number of stakeholders.

It doesn’t matter the project size; managing the relationship with stakeholders is essential for a smooth and successful project delivery.

What is a stakeholder engagement assessment matrix?

A stakeholder engagement matrix is a tool used to identify, assess, and prioritize the level of involvement and communication needed for various stakeholders in a project, organization, or decision-making process.

This matrix typically maps stakeholders based on their influence, interest, or potential impact on the project and helps develop tailored communication and engagement strategies for each stakeholder group.

The purpose of a stakeholder engagement matrix is to effectively manage relationships and ensure stakeholders are appropriately involved, leading to better decision-making and project outcomes.

How to create a stakeholder engagement matrix?

A stakeholder engagement matrix is nothing more than a simple table where each row represents one or a group of stakeholders.

The columns of the matrix represent the level of engagement in which the stakeholders can be categorized. These are the following:

  • Unaware – Stakeholders in this category are unaware of the projects or how the results might affect them.
  • Resistant – Stakeholders in this category are aware of the project but are resistant to the change.
  • Neutral – Stakeholders in the neutral category are aware of the project but neither resist nor support it.
  • Supportive – These stakeholders know about the project and its possible effects and support the change.
  • Leading – Stakeholders in this group know about the project and work hard to make it successful.

Within this grid, you add the current level of engagement of each stakeholder and the level you want to achieve. The current level of engagement is indicated with a “C”, while the desired engagement level is represented with a “D”.

A “C” can occur in any of the columns. A “D”, however, is typically not applicable for the ‘unaware’ or ‘resistant’ columns for obvious reasons (you don’t wish to have resistant stakeholders in your project, I assume).

What is the stakeholder engagement assessment matrix used for?

The stakeholder engagement assessment matrix is a technique that can be used as part of several processes:

  • Planning communication management
  • Monitoring communications
  • Planning stakeholder engagement
  • Monitoring stakeholder engagement

In the planning processes, a stakeholder engagement matrix records how much each important stakeholder should be involved.

During the monitoring steps, the real engagement level of stakeholders is compared to the desired involvement. This way, the project manager can find and address any differences or gaps.

What are the benefits of a stakeholder engagement assessment matrix?

With a stakeholder engagement assessment matrix, you can identify how stakeholders currently feel about the project. Armed with this knowledge, project managers can:

Increase project support

The team can focus on communicating with stakeholders who generally support or actively promote the project to keep their backing.

Providing these stakeholders with the latest details and encouraging them to share the info with others can help prepare the business for a coming change.

It’s especially important for stakeholders who have a strong influence and are trusted by others in the company.

Build awareness and engagement

Catching people off guard with unwanted or challenging changes can quickly hurt a project’s chance of success.

People appreciate being informed about what’s happening and having the opportunity to engage and give feedback on the changes.

The team can create a strong communication plan to boost their knowledge and involvement by finding stakeholders who seem unaware of the project.

This might turn them into supporters of the change or lead to valuable feedback that wouldn’t have emerged if they had stayed uninformed.

Note: Sometimes, keeping stakeholders in the dark is a purposeful decision by the project team. For instance, if the project is highly sensitive and might cause job loss, the team might wait to inform stakeholders until proper support systems are in place.

Convert resistant or neutral stakeholders

A stakeholder engagement assessment matrix helps identify and focus on resistant or neutral stakeholders.

This is crucial because it lets the project team understand why they have that stance.

Maybe they see the future outcome as less beneficial, the organization failed at a similar change before, or they’re concerned about having the right skills for the future.

Understanding the reason offers a chance to influence their viewpoint.

This could involve sharing targeted updates showing positive project progress compared to failed ones or presenting training and development plans to help people feel prepared for change.

Sometimes, just acknowledging their worries is enough. Making people feel heard can be the key to getting their support.

Obstacles and challenges of stakeholder engagement assessment matrix

When making a stakeholder engagement assessment matrix, you can expect a couple of obstacles or challenges. Below are the most common and how to solve them.

Poor confidentiality

The stakeholder engagement assessment matrix is a document that team members and interested stakeholders can view. However, involving high-level stakeholders too much might negatively affect the efforts.

Additionally, stakeholders with lower involvement might feel undervalued, leading to decreased project participation.

Solution: You can use color coding or a numbering system in the matrix to represent stakeholder categories. This approach hides the actual categories and prevents stakeholders in lower grades from feeling underappreciated.

Inadequate management skills

A project manager has numerous tasks to handle, which may sometimes cause them to overlook other aspects of the project.

Solution: Correctly scheduling tasks ensures that every part of the project is addressed and the advantages outweigh any potential difficulties.

Barriers to effective communication

Using communication methods that don’t suit all relevant stakeholders might significantly hinder progress.

Solution: Use communication methods that work well and suit individuals and groups.

How does it differ from other stakeholder analysis models?

There are various stakeholder analysis models, with the power vs. interest model among the most popular.

After identifying stakeholders, they are placed on a 2×2 grid based on their power and interest in the project.

This analysis helps the project team decide how to engage with key stakeholder groups and create a stakeholder management plan.

A tailored stakeholder engagement strategy should be used for each of the four sections of the power vs. interest grid.

Stakeholder engagement is an essential aspect of stakeholder management. It involves taking action based on your analysis to shift stakeholders to positions that improve the chances of project success.

The crucial point with all stakeholder matrix models is to act on the insights gained from your analysis.

Whether turning an interested, supportive stakeholder into a project champion or effectively managing an influential, resistant stakeholder to prevent negative effects, taking action is what matters.

Frequently asked questions

What is a stakeholder engagement assessment matrix?

A stakeholder engagement assessment matrix is a tool used in project management that compares current engagement levels and desired engagement levels of stakeholders for a project.

What are the 5 engagement levels of stakeholders?

The 5 engagement levels of stakeholders are:

  • Unaware
  • Resistant
  • Neutral
  • Supportive
  • Leading

How do you create a stakeholder engagement assessment matrix?

  1. Identify key stakeholders
  2. Determine current engagement levels
  3. Determine desired engagement levels
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Stakeholder engagement assessment matrix: What it is and how to use it
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