“The world and everything in it!”
If you are a project manager, you know that this is not just a quote from the movie Scarface, but more than likely the mentality of several of your stakeholders. Managing stakeholder expectations while keeping the project on track and within budget is one of the most difficult tasks a project manager faces.
The first step to managing stakeholder expectations is to identify who the key stakeholders are. The purpose of identifying key stakeholders is to minimize the “noise” around a project. Project noise happens when non-stakeholders begin to voice their opinions to you. While their opinions may be valid, they could also contradict the key stakeholder’s expectations. By identifying key stakeholders you reduce the number of communication channels between yourself and the client and minimize potential project noise which can distract you from your deadline and budget.
While identifying the key stakeholders is extremely helpful, key stakeholders are not infallible and minimizing the communication channels does not always prevent elaborate expectations. This is why it is important to define the project’s critical success factors as early as possible. Failure to define these success factors can result in scope creep, underwhelming deliverables, and project delays.
After you have identified your key stakeholders and defined what will make the project successful, the most important step towards managing stakeholder’s expectations is to establish a communication plan and milestones for all deliverables. This way your stakeholders know exactly what they are getting and when they are getting it. If any of the milestones begin to slip, communicate it promptly. A project manager’s best asset is to be proactive instead of reactive and a consistent approach will always lead to more manageable expectations.