The importance and value of a backup stakeholder

We have heard about the importance of a stakeholder to ensure the success of the project. Every article and white-paper written about the keys to the success of a project talk about the stakeholder- and the more influential the stakeholder, the better.

What is seldom talked about is the need for a back-up stakeholder. What do I mean? You identify the stakeholder @ the start of the project and leverage him/her to get the necessary support and backing from the larger organization. Even when there is a group of stakeholders, there is usually one person, who is the lead stakeholder with the most interest (and hopefully passion) in the successful completion and roll-out of the project.

However, we live in a constantly changing environment, with people moving out of their roles, and sometimes even changing jobs. When a key person leaves a company, it creates a power vacuum and someone else will step in to fill the void. Now, if the person leaving happened to be the biggest supporter of your project, you are suddenly exposed and you have no idea if the support for your project is going to continue. This is especially true in a very divided organization where individuals have strong likes and dislikes and opinions.

To mitigate this risk, it is a good practice to have a back-up stakeholder identified and prepped; you want to identify someone who is strong, is aligned with the project goals and objectives, and can potentially step up if and when the primary stakeholder leaves.

I have seen and heard of many projects fail because of a shift in the stakeholder- my guess would be that there was no secondary stakeholder identified and when the primary stakeholder left, there was nobody to back-up the project.

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