Navigating Stakeholder Changes
A Guide to Keeping Tech Projects on Track

Imagine the scenario: You have been building a case to implement a technology solution for the Human Resources department to help them manage their recruitment process more effectively. That business case is very soon to go before the board for approval. However, the finance director, a key stakeholder, has resigned and been replaced by a new one. Before, the finance director was aligned to implementing the latest HR technology solution, so now you have to meet with the finance director to see whether they will support the business case approval.

This scenario is a common theme that has surfaced during the dozen or so interviews I've held with IT business partners over the past month. Based on our experiences and the training material I provide, I outline some considerations you can employ to mitigate the risk of the hard work you have put in going to waste due to stakeholder changes.


To help explore this topic, I want first to establish a couple of principles:

The first is to call out the difference between business relationships and personal relationships. Business relationships, especially in the beginning, tend to be transactional. Both parties put something in to get something out, where the quality of the transaction (i.e., progress, achievement of goals) builds credibility and can start almost immediately. On the other hand, personal relationships take a long time to build, as they are based on the quality and frequency of the interaction between people. Trust is the measure of a successful personal relationship. 

The second is to call out the difference between the proposal you want to keep on track and any justification around your role. This frequently needs to be clarified when meeting an important new stakeholder. (i.e., "I'll deliver...", "my proposal...", not mentioning you're part of a wider team) . The challenge arises where the perceived success of the proposal is intrinsically linked to the perceived success of your role and you. Irrespective of whether you get approval for your business case in the first instance, you'll still need to work with the finance director, and they will want to work with you on other proposals or issues that arise.

The First Meeting

Below are a few discussion points you could raise in your first meeting:

  • Outline your role's key objectives and how you can help the new finance director

  • Talk about the two principles above and set expectations for how your role's objectives can be fulfilled.

  • Understand their agenda, what's important to them, how they conduct business and what they think they need from you. Make detailed notes.

  • At the end of the meeting, unless there is a clear emerging priority that displaces your proposal, suggest that there is an important matter that needs their attention. You happen to have a one-page summary of the HR technology proposal that you can give them to read.

  • Ask when they would be next available to discuss this and get their thoughts on the proposal.

The Bigger Picture

There is a broader framework behind the discussion points above that is based on the following concepts and discussed in more detail on the Udemy platform, currently for free, click to access:

  1. Having a clear value proposition

  2. Focus on developing listening skills.

  3. Developing a sense of trust through practising "good" politics

  4. Appreciating that alignment is about gaining consensus on objectives, approach, and acknowledgement of the facts

  5. Having a consistent approach to stakeholder management.

So, reflecting on the scenario - what happens when things don't work out as quickly as you would've liked or you have hit an obstacle in your conversations with the finance director? Gaining alignment on the proposal and their commitment to support it would be a surprise in the first couple of meetings. Understanding how their minds work, what information they need, and their appetite for supporting this proposal, amongst all the priorities that their other stakeholders demand, will take a while to appreciate. I've been in a couple of situations where one business case has taken eighteen months from identifying the capability gap to gaining approval, and the journey to get there was subject to many other obstacles, including:

  • Cultural attitudes or implied policy where proposals had to originate and be driven from head office rather than local support. 

  • Prioritisation of work vis a vis the business strategy and other initiatives

  • The urgency and impact of the project that needed to be better communicated.

  • People not accepting responsibility and "passing the buck."

  • New information or changes in approach that required a significant review of the proposal.

Final Thoughts

So, to sum up, I offer these three thoughts: 

  1. Your conviction for a particular proposal will drive the amount of time and priority you dedicate to this one proposal at the expense of something else. How aligned is it to the overall business strategy compared to all other initiatives?

  2. Have a well-defined picture of how stakeholders support your proposal. This may mean adopting different relationship and communication strategies to achieve your desired goal.

  3. Manage your expectations with stakeholders. Be consistent in your relationship management approach, have a plan, and revisit it regularly to ensure you're focusing on the right things.

If you have found this useful, the Relationship Management training course has 10 hours of videos, examples, and exercises on the Udemy platform. As we build up an audience, they are currently free. For certification and coaching, please get in touch with me directly. 

Be the first to know about our latest offers

by subscribing to our newsletter.

Navigating Stakeholder Changes
Baxter Thompson Ltd, Jon Baxter
2 April, 2024
Share this post
Sign in to leave a comment
Cost Cutting in the Technology Budget
Make better decisions on saving money