Why stakeholder management starts before you might think it does

Rajas Bhagwat | 19 September 2023

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Stakeholder management is vital to the implementation of a project. But it's also vital way before that! In this blog post, I draw from a recent case study to demonstrate the value of stakeholder management at every project phase.

You’ve just completed a project which will result in changes to your organisation. Time to work your stakeholder management magic now, right?

Well, sort of. Yes, it’s time to engage stakeholders. But it was also time to engage them from the very start!

If you leave that oh-so-important piece until the end, it’s too late. You might have the best communication style, but if stakeholders weren’t involved in the project, they can only be so supportive of the changes that result from it.

For the implementation phase of a project to go smoothly, you need to engage relevant stakeholders at EVERY phase of the project lifecycle. From start to finish. In this blog post, I’ll outline a recent process design project with a client that shows what this looks like.

A medium-sized bank was looking to improve its lending process. As in any of our projects, we break it down into three phases: First, we work to understand the problem or opportunity in-depth. Only with a holistic understanding can we move on to two, co-designing impactful solutions together with our client and their stakeholders. Finally, we make it stick. How do we make sure the solution is adopted and implemented, driving positive results long-term?

I’ll demonstrate how we engaged stakeholders during each of these phases, and why that’s vital.


Understanding the Problem

First, we delved into the client’s challenges in their lending process. We couldn’t have comprehended the intricacies of the situation without engaging with various stakeholders within the organisation. We worked closely with teams from loan processing, to customer teams, to Operations. This gave us a multi-faceted view by gaining insights into the challenges faced by multiple departments.

Here are three ways that engaging each team helped us gain a bigger picture:

  1. Engaging the customer-facing teams helped us understand the customer’s perspective: The customer-facing teams could provide us with an inside view of the requirements and pain points of the bank’s customers, their real-world experiences and feedback.
  2. Engaging the Risk & Compliance team ensured that any proposed changes we made would adhere to regulatory requirements. After all, banks don’t exist in a vacuum, but in a complex environment. Compliance experts provided valuable input on navigating complex credit policies and risk mitigation strategies.
  3. Engaging subject matter experts (SMEs) provided us with insights into the intricacies of the existing lending process. Only with that insight could we address operational inefficiencies.


Co-designing impactful solutions

With a comprehensive understanding of the problem, we began the co-designing phase. This means that we designed solutions and processes in collaboration with our client and key stakeholders. Without working together in this phase in the following three ways, our solutions would likely not have been as effective for our client and their people:

  1. Simplifying credit policies: Assessors were faced with a complex web of rules and requirements to follow. We were able to reduce the number of rules, while maintaining the same quality of decision-making. Working closely with them and with other departments ensured alignment among customer channels, Operations, Risk, and Credit teams when it came to the new regulations. This streamlined the process for assessors while also improving their understanding of, and thus adherence to, the policies.
  2. Implementing a case management system: In the previous process, multiple stakeholders would hand over applications multiple times, slowing down the process and impacting the customer experience. By working with them to identify these handover points, we introduced a case management system. This was the missing link that now allows one assessor to handle the entire application process, from submission to decision.
  3. Utilising automated credit decisioning: In collaboration with Risk & Compliance experts, Three6 categorised loan applications into various risk ratings with the help of an automated credit decisioning system. This technology was already present but wasn’t being used for workflow management. This innovative approach optimised the assessment process, reducing administrative tasks and expediting decisions.


Making it Stick

Finally, with the solutions and processes designed, it was time to make it stick: to ensure that the bank’s people would embrace and adopt these new processes. Only with their support would the changes actually materialise and result in the desired results! This is the phase that’s often associated with change and stakeholder management. For us, that element started before the project even kicked off. Nevertheless, it also played a key role here.

For one, we piloted the new strategies in increments, rather than rolling them out at once from the top. This let us gather and incorporate valuable feedback from those involved, adapting the strategies to better suit their needs. Meanwhile, ‘Assessment Champions’ volunteered to pilot the changes. Beyond providing feedback, they also played a pivotal role in driving cultural change within the organisation. By demonstrating that the new processes would make their lives easier and achieve greater results, they brought further people in the organisation onboard, adopting the changes and making them happen.


What to take away from this

Yes, managing stakeholders helped the change management process run more smoothly. But without also involving them upfront from the start of the project, they wouldn’t have nearly been as engaged. Working with them can let you:

  1. Better understand the problem: Engaging stakeholders from diverse areas of the organisation gives you a more holistic understanding of the problem, resulting in more effective solutions at the next stage.
  2. Design tailored solutions: Collaboration fosters creativity. It also ensures that proposed solutions align with the organisation’s goals and accounts for their regulations and operational realities.
  3. Make it stick: the work done in the previous two phases, combined with effective change management, ensures that changes really benefit and resonate with your people. Without that tangible benefit, resistance would be greater.

Effective and ongoing stakeholder management ensures that projects not only meet their objectives but also contribute to the broader vision and mission of your organisation.


Have a project that needs engaged stakeholders to make it happen? Email us at hello@three6.com.au or contact us below!