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3.9.1 Stakeholder Involvement



Stakeholder involvement insures that needs, problems, issues, constraints are prioritized and addressed during each stage of the development process. Rarely, if ever, does a single project satisfy every need of every stakeholder. The team should understand what the most important needs are. Such understanding ensures that the project identifies the most important needs that will fit within the schedule and budget. The team can, and should, make well thought-out, well discussed, and well reviewed decisions as to what all of the stakeholders' important needs are, which needs are going to be satisfied, which are not; and why these decisions are being made. This requires that the stakeholders participate heavily in the earliest phases of the project.


Stakeholders are all the agencies, groups, and individuals who will be affected by the system. Stakeholders include planners, users, and agencies who may be the operators, maintainers, or users of the system. Sometimes stakeholders include the public or portions of the public. Each stakeholder brings a wealth of experience, wisdom, knowledge, and insight from their perspective. They also bring needs and issues that need to be addressed. A representative from each stakeholder group should be included as participants in the project. For instance, there will be projects that have representatives from many different agencies. Other projects may only have fewer stakeholder. Representatives from each stakeholder group should be fully aware of the group's history, problems, and current needs. They should be a valid representative of their stakeholders group. In other words, they should accurately reflect their needs and expectations. Each of the chosen representatives should be consulted frequently and their opinions and suggestions should be encouraged and given respectful consideration.



Inputs to stakeholder involvement include project goals and objectives, project products, purpose of involvement, and results of past stakeholder involvement. The project plan/SEMP is a constraint. Outputs are documented suggestions, opinions, needs, ideas, concerns, problems, and satisfaction level. The enablers are elicitation and technical reviews.



Project Goals, Objectives, Schedule, and Budget [most recent version] provide an understanding of the environment of the project and the limits of time and money the project has remaining.

Project's major outputs to date [the most recent version] provide a view of what has already been decided.

Purpose of involvement orients the stakeholder as to what the purpose of this particular session is.

Results of past stakeholder involvementenables them to see the effects of previous stakeholder input, review what has been addressed, and how their efforts are helping both the stakeholder group and the project.


Project Plan / SEMP defines the tasks, schedule, and processes to be employed for involving stakeholders.


Elicitationprovides techniques for gathering stakeholder input: constructive brainstorming, discussion, understanding, suggestions, and ideas.

Technical Reviews provide a formalized setting for stakeholders to see what the outcomes of their inputs have been so far, and for ensuring that the most important concerns have been addressed.


Documentation of stakeholders suggestions, opinions, needs, ideas, concerns, problems, satisfaction level includes recording all stakeholders ideas voiced during the session, re-writing them to make it clear and easy to understand, adding summary diagrams, lists and text, and describing how they affect the project.

Feedbacktells stakeholders and other project staff what new information and insight was revealed.

Process Activities: [Have stakeholders participate in]

Generating and assessing lists of needs, problems, and concerns

Candidate lists of needs, problems, concerns, issues, and constraints are developed first by the core team of the project. These lists are then reviewed by stakeholders, first one-on-one, and later in a group, so that stakeholders can add any missing items important to the groups they represent. Then have each stakeholder make an assessment of a number of characteristics [e.g. cost, risk, utility, importance] for each item on the list, from the stakeholder group's point of view.

Discussing the needs of all the stakeholders with all the other stakeholders

This will enable each stakeholder to see these items as perceived by other stakeholders. It will enable the group to appreciate the needs and problems of other stakeholders, to understand where there are both synergistic and conflicting needs/solutions between different groups, and break down institutional barriers.

Making suggestions on how the most vital needs of all the stakeholders can be satisfied most cost-effectively

This will enable each stakeholder to benefit from the wisdom and experience of other stakeholders to help resolve conflicts and suggest solutions that can bring the greatest benefit to all the stakeholders as a group.

Prioritizing the collective needs of all the stakeholders

This will enable stakeholders to have a say in the prioritization process, to observe and influence what is selected, and to ensure that the stakeholder group is adequately represented during the process. It will also enable them to tell the rest of the stakeholder group how items were assessed, and prioritized.

Selecting which needs will be addressed and how they will be addressed

This will enable stakeholders to influence the selection process and understand thoroughly how and why the project solutions evolved.

Reviewing the details of how these needs will be satisfied at each stage of the project

As the project evolves, stakeholders should review how the stakeholders' needs and problems are being addressed so they can help the project team abort any faulty solutions, mitigate risks, fine-tune solutions, and improve the utility and cost-effectiveness of the system.

Illustrates where Stakeholder Involvement occurs in the Vee Development Model. Following the timeline: extremely high stakeholder involvement occurs in the Concept of Operations section; high stakeholder involvement occurs in the Concept of Operations, System Requirements, and High-Level Design (Project Architecture) Subsystem Requirements sections; low stakeholder involvement occurs in the Component Level Detailed Design, Software Coding Hardware Fabrication, and Unit Testing sections; and high stakeholder involvement occurs in the Subsystem Verification, System Verification and Initial Deployment, and System Validation sections.

Where does Stakeholder Involvement take place in the project timeline?

Is there a policy or standard that talks about Stakeholder Involvement?

FHWA Final Rule requires identifying the roles and responsibilities of participating agencies and stakeholders in the operation and implementation of ITS projects funded with Federal money from the Highway Trust Fund, including the Mass Transit Account.

Which activities are critical for the system's owner to do?

  • Identifying who the stakeholder groups are
  • Getting the appropriate person[s] to represent each important stakeholder group [These "stakeholder representatives" become part of the development team and participate in the stakeholder involvement sessions]
  • Ensuring that stakeholder ideas, opinions, needs, and concerns are used to decide what needs the system will address, how the system will address them, and ensure the resulting product gives the highest benefit to the stakeholders for the time and budget allowed

How do I fit these activities to my project? [Tailoring]

Some projects naturally involve more stakeholder groups than others. The more stakeholder groups there are, the more stakeholder-group involvement sessions will be necessary to build consensus.

Some projects are quite similar to previous projects. Other projects are not similar to anything that has been done before. In general, the higher the similarity to previous successful projects, the less time and scrutiny will be needed from the stakeholders. The more the intended system differs from anything previously done, the more input will be need from the stakeholders.

What should I track in this process step to reduce project risks and get what is expected? [Metrics]

On the project management side:

  • % of stakeholder involvement activities that occurred on time and within budget [as compared with the project plan]
  • % of stakeholder groups represented in each stakeholder-involvement activity
  • Level of satisfaction of each stakeholder group [as reported by its representative] with the decisions, plans, and processes to date
  • For each stakeholder group, % of the critical needs, problems, issues, and concerns addressed
  • Level of satisfaction of each stakeholder group that their critical needs, problems, concerns, and issues have been adequately addressed at each point in the project

Checklist: Are all the bases covered?

check Are all of the stakeholder groups identified for the project and is at least one stakeholder representative identified for each group?
check Has the project's goals, objectives, schedule, and budget been discussed with each stakeholder's representative and have all the questions been addressed?
check Has each stakeholder's representative been informed as to why stakeholder involvement is critical to the success of the project?
check Has each stakeholder's representative been informed as to who all the other stakeholder groups are that are planning to be involved, and why each are involved?
check Has it been demonstrated to each stakeholder's representative how their participation will benefit the stakeholder group they represent?
check Has it been explained to each stakeholder's representative how past stakeholder participation has affected the project? How it has improved it? Changed it? What the results were of past involvement?
check Has it been described to each stakeholder's representative what is needed from them [both now and in the long-term]?
check Has each stakeholder representative been asked for feedback?  Were their needs, ideas, and concerns documented as they relate to the project?
check Has all of the stakeholder's representatives' feedback been utilized in developing and prioritizing the needs, concerns, issues, and alternative solutions?
check Has all of the stakeholder's representatives' feedback been utilized at each point in the project's development?
check Have all the stakeholder's representative's questions been answered?
check Has each stakeholder representative's satisfaction level been assessed with the project processes, plans, and decisions to date?
check Has each stakeholder representative been provided with feedback on the results of the stakeholder-involvement activities?
check Has appreciation for each stakeholder representative's time, energy, and ideas been expressed after each stakeholder involvement session?


Recommendation.Are there any other recommendations that can help?

A Closer look at stakeholders

There are often many levels of Stakeholders.

Primary stakeholders are those who have the biggest stake in project and usually, are those who will be operating, using, maintaining, and/or funding the system. For example, a Traffic Information System, [a system which collects and provides information on traffic conditions, accidents, alternative routes, weather, and road conditions that affect traffic], primary stakeholders would include each department of transportation [perhaps both state and local] that collects and/or uses this information to help improve safety and traffic flow. Other primary stakeholders would include the police and emergency services that use and provide information to the system. If there are private groups such as Information Service Providers who collect and disseminate part of this information, they, too, are stakeholders.

There are also segments of the public who are stakeholders. They may include commuters, the handicapped & elderly, and commercial vehicle organizations. A given project may or may not have such segments of the public represented by a specific person. It may simply remember to explicitly identify and include the interests and needs of such users. Sometimes, surveys are used to assess the needs, problems, concerns, and issues of such segments of the public. Sometimes, organizations who service these segments of the public are queried. For instance, drivers of vehicles that transport the handicapped or the elderly may be queried. Another example, the Automobile Club [AAA] might be contacted to provide information on typical needs of the traveling motorists they service.

Some projects may have as many as 20 or 30 stakeholder groups represented. [More than this number becomes unwieldy to use in discussion groups or workshops]. Some projects may have as few as 3 to 5 stakeholder groups.

Tip.A closer look at the role the operating organization stakeholder is expected to perform.

It is these eventual operators, who have the most knowledge of the environment in which the system will operate; who have, or soon will have, the best opinions on how well the system will help them do their job. Understanding of the operating domain is the first resource in designing the system. However, the operators' deeper and more extensive understanding of the operating domain, tempered by their possibly limited understanding of the potential of the system, is a second resource which must be used to validate the Concept of Operations and to develop the requirements of the system.

Normally, when the above-described stakeholder involvement process is used conscientiously and thoroughly, the stakeholders naturally develop a sense of ownership and pride in the evolving system. In fact, many of the stakeholders will eventually become champions of the system.

When a system truly helps the stakeholders with their most pressing problems and needs, stakeholders naturally will champion the system. The only way to make sure the system truly meets the most important needs of all the high-priority stakeholders is to have them provide the experience and knowledge base they each have, and to tap into their collective expertise and insight as to how to solve their common, and sometimes conflicting, needs.

When soliciting feedback from stakeholders, whether it is regarding their needs, concerns, issues, or anything else, it is best to provide an initial set first based on previous elicitation techniques. Use this as a strawman that the stakeholders can modify.

Many people draw a blank when simply asked "What are the needs?" Or, "what are the top priorities?" However, if their input is solicited by making up a list, they are likely to be able to give their opinion on how they should be changed.

It is important to provide the leadership a vision that draws the stakeholders into participating and taking an interest in the project.

Good leadership includes imparting the vision of the project:

  • why it is needed
  • how it will help solve current problems
  • how it will benefit each of the stakeholder groups

Be interested in the stakeholder's needs, issues, problems, and suggestions. Demonstrate that this group of stakeholder representatives is vital to finding the greater good for the collection of stakeholder groups. Tell them that their input is needed. Give due respect to every piece of input and every suggestion they make. Encourage them to respect each other's needs and problems. Be a good moderator:

  • Give everyone a chance to express their opinion, avoid petty side arguments and bickering
  • Make suggestions as a starting point.
  • Ask others for feedback on various suggestions
  • Brainstorm with the stakeholders
  • Empathize with them
  • Show them gratitude for their inputs, even if many issues remain unresolved
  • Keep the group on track, seeking solutions for the project
  • Keep the group informed on how their past participation has helped the project, and on what their future participation will be
  • Provide them with survey and questionnaire results
  • Keep the discussions positive, avoid any destructive activities [blaming, shaming, put-downs, or insults.] when they occur

These actions will help achieve convergence [vs. divergence] of ideas and concepts. It will also help break down institutional barriers and aid stakeholders to work towards the greater good.

Keep the interactions with the stakeholders regular, predictable, and ongoing throughout the project.

Keeping in mind the vision issues delineated above. The initial contact with stakeholders may be via one-on-one sessions. Explain the project vision to them and help them identify the appropriate person so that their agency's needs and issues are adequately addressed. Workshops should be included where all the stakeholder representatives interact with each other. When the program schedule is set, include such stakeholder sessions at regular and pre-scheduled intervals. A series of interactive sessions early in the project will be needed to make sure important needs, issues, problems, and concerns are identified. Have them help in prioritizing these needs. Surveys and questionnaires can be used to support these activities. Provide feedback on the results of these surveys and questionnaires. Stakeholder help will be needed in identifying alternative candidate solutions and in pointing out the pros and cons of each solution. Once the initial set of needs and alternatives has been clearly identified, discussed, and evaluated, continued feedback will be needed on how these are being used to flesh out the details on the evolving system. It is critical that they review all the major decisions, prioritizations, and evolving designs of the system and its interfaces. Point out what elements they feel are satisfactory and where improvements are needed.




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Page last modified on September 20, 2016
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