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Overview of Stakeholder Engagement in the Program Management


The stakeholder concept was first put to use at the Stanford Research Institute. It

said that “organizations would cease to exist if groups’ support is not obtained”.

These groups were called Stakeholders.

I have discussed some differences later in the blog between Project and Program level stakeholders. The Program level stakeholders are not about managing pre-determined processes, but building rewarding relationships and influencing other people to help achieve the program goals.

Stakeholder Engagement always is a 2 way street like many other things that we encounter in our professional and personal lives. 

What you want and what you can offer to the stakeholders that they value?

In Program Management or the way, it is done in PgMP Certification or PgMP training, the level of authority that the stakeholders exhibit over the Program. The manager can be very high. Unlike the Project Manager, who is mandated and authorized to achieve the specific objective, the Program manager does not have the authority with whom the Program Manager is dealing.

A key aspect that you learn in PgMP training is to engage with a Stakeholder rather than managing the Stakeholder. The notion behind it is to understand the concerns and expectations of the stakeholder and focus on the right message, rather than the right method.

Below is the diagram that I have borrowed which clearly articulates the difference between engaging a Stakeholder and managing a Stakeholder.

The focus in Stakeholder engagement is clearly on delivering Business value while building rewarding relationships and bringing in Inspired Leadership, to influence others to achieve the Program Goals. However, Stakeholder Management focuses more on the methods and processes to get it right.

It leads to another fundamental question why we should engage with stakeholders.

Why should we engage with the stakeholders?

I have tried to elaborate on the benefits of engaging and the risks of NOT engaging with the Stakeholders.

Benefits of Engaging with Stakeholders:

  1. Build more predictability on outcomes
  2. Build more rapport and trust
  3. More Organizational awareness
  4. Better equipped to deal with resistance from Stakeholders.

Similarly, the risks on not engaging with the Stakeholders

  1. Uncertainty of Outcome
  2. More rework as part of new changes coming
  3. Low Morale of Program Management team
  4. Can lead to unprofessional and unethical ways of achieving goals.

Now that we understood a little about stakeholders, we will elaborate more on the Differences in engaging and managing stakeholders in a Project and a Program.

Project OrientedProgram Oriented
The Stakeholders are less in number and less diverse as wellThe Stakeholders are diverse and large in numbers
The Stakeholders are known upfront and remain the same throughout the projectThe Stakeholders may appear later in the program and some stakeholders can exhibit a change in behaviour or attitude during the course of program
The Stakeholders are interested in project and its capablityThe Stakeholders have varied interest in the program and its benefits
The project Stakeholders motivation levels can be kept high as it is more easier given the smaller group and focussed outputit is difficult to keep the program stakeholders motivated as the program is long. and the program embraces changes over a period of time
it is easier to get the stakeholders buy in as the project output can be seen in a shorter periodBenefits realization takes a longer time and it is difficult to get the buy in of the stakeholders


Does a Program differ in the way it engages with Stakeholders from a Project?

The Program differs in the way it engages with Stakeholders from a Project that would In our PgMP certification or the PgMP Training, we clearly outline the differences between the both. What happens is that the PgMP training has people primarily coming from the Project Management background and it is important that they unlearn some of the things before they learn the stakeholder engagement in Programs. Before becoming PgMP Certified one has to be seasoned with the project management knowledge. Although there are similarities with the approach, there is a fundamental difference about approaching the stakeholders.

In a Program, the canvas is much wider than a Project. In fact, the Program Manager may not be aware of some of the stakeholders and some may come as surprise during the project. However, the project’s stakeholders are more or less known and it does not pose such a challenge.

I have elaborated a few differences in the diagram below, which elucidates the

We have understood about engaging Stakeholders as per the PgMP Certification or Program Management. Let’s go a little deeper in understanding the steps in engaging with the stakeholders.

The Process of Engaging the Stakeholders

The Stakeholder engagement process in the PgMP certification / Program Management is one of the core things to do to engage stakeholders.

1.Identifying Stakeholders

In this stage, it is important to identify as many stakeholders as possible, first at a group level and then down to an individual level. It is necessary to identify individual or sub-groups whose needs and expectations would be significantly different from the the rest of the group and their level of influence can be major.

2. Classify the Stakeholders

It is important to classify the stakeholders to bring the focus on the stakeholders, effectively engage the key stakeholders accordingly and achieve the strategic goals in a much better fashion.

There are many models to classify the stakeholders. I have elaborated a couple of the models below:

Power Interest Grid:

This is one of the most popular models to classify the stakeholders. PMI has used in the PgMP Training and guide to educate since the inception of PgMP certification since 2009.

The Grid is broken into 4 quadrants –

  1. High Interest, High Power
  2. High Interest, Low Power
  3. High Power, Low Interest
  4. Low Power, Low Interest

The below diagram is self-explanatory and the Program Manager with their team classify the stakeholders as 4 quadrants. And soon, you will discover your different stakeholders and will help to identify who are the key and most influential Stakeholders.

Further, depending on the stakeholders, as is evident from the diagram below, the 80% of the efforts will be on the High Power, High Interest and High Power, Low Interest stakeholders. You typically build partnerships or strong relationships with the High Power, High-Interest stakeholders. For the rest of the quadrants such as High Interest, Low Power – you indulge in consulting to uncover their needs and use different communication tools to either pull or push communications.

3 Uncovering Stakeholder expectations

Now that the stakeholders are classified, the Program Manager needs to uncover the expectations of the stakeholder. Needs are explicit requirements from the stakeholders but the expectations are often undefined requirements and that’s a job for the Program Manager to handle. One of the big causes of failures of Program Management as stated in PgMP certification is the failure to satisfy the needs and expectations of the stakeholders.

The process is to find both the defined and undefined stakeholders’ requirements, at the individual level for key stakeholders and for others, at the group level. The idea is to define the success and should include both hard benefits such as technical, operational benefits, etc and soft benefits such as power, political benefits, etc. Many stakeholders do not express the soft benefits but they should be acknowledged by the Program Manager and team and should be documented as assumptions. These assumptions can be verified during the course of the program. The PgMP training suggests that the expectations and needs of the stakeholders should be documented in a document – Stakeholder Register.

4 Negotiate Trade-offs with Stakeholders

Once the expectations are uncovered, the Program Management and the Program team needs to evaluate the achievability of these expectations against the available capacity in the program. Any variance needs to be addressed and the trade-offs need to be negotiated with the stakeholders. As you cannot satisfy each and every stakeholder, the Program Manager will obviously focus more on the key Stakeholders.

5 Get Buy-In from Stakeholders

Finally, it is important that the stakeholders agree with the trade-offs and the benefits of the program. Once they agree, the Program Manager needs their commitment to the program. The stakeholders change over a period of time, some exit and some new ones appear. Further, expectations and needs keep on changing during the course of the program. Therefore, it becomes necessary that all these steps right from the Identifying Stakeholders till getting the Buy-in from the stakeholders is a continuous process throughout the program. The buy-in and the support from the stakeholders are of utmost importance for a successful program.

The stakeholder engagement, therefore, becomes a continuous process and the stakeholder analysis and engagement should be on continuous iteration so that the buy-in from the stakeholders is always there.

Roles of Top Actors in PgMP Certification Program Management

There can be many actors for any Program. However, as per our PgMP certification,

we consider few actors as the key stakeholders to help the program achieve its goals. The PgMP training goes into details on what each actor in the Program can achieve.

Below is given a brief idea of what each actor’s role is for Program Management.

Some Recent statistics on how Stakeholder Management is important for Program Management

As you are aware, Program Management is all about benefits realization and achieving the strategic goals for the organizations. In the entire process, Program and its subcomponents, Projects and Operations, focus on achieving the benefits to align with the strategic objectives of the organization.

Some of the statistics below which suggest that why Program Management can fill in the gaps of these statistics.

One primary statistic which is concerning and where Program Management will be effective:

  • Lack of clear goals is the most common factor (37%) – Only 37% of the projects are successful as the rest are failures due to a lack of clear goal. In Programs, and as you learn from PgMP certification, this is one of the primaries domains of Program Management.

Some other metrics can be useful to evaluate the effectiveness of Programs.

Further, if you analyse the causes of the failures, the top 2 are “Changes in Organization Priorities” and “Change in Project Objectives” and here, Program Management helps to fill in the gaps effectively. The PgMP Training focuses on these top 2 items effectively.

In this informative blog, we analysed What is a Stakeholder, the difference between “Engagement” and “Management, discovered some ways to engage effectively with the stakeholder analysed the differences between Project Stakeholder Engagement and Program Stakeholder Engagement, identified the top key actors for Program Management. Finally, we glimpsed through some of the key statistics as provided by top world bodies such as PMI and understood how Program Management can be the solution to help achieve the strategic objectives of the organization.

Trust it was a great read and informative read on Program Stakeholder Engagement.

We will be happy to help in case of any suggestions/questions.

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