The Six Principles of Stakeholder Engagement (Part 1)

This post, written by Raj Sharma, originally appeared on Public Spend Forum

Among supply chain professionals in large, complex organizations, there is very little argument about the value of enterprise-wide supply management initiatives. Nor is there much debate about the benefits of a cohesive approach to using drivers of value like demand management, requirements development, and purchase volume aggregation.

But as anyone who has managed an enterprise-wide program knows, such efforts are fraught with big challenges, not the least of which is how to get real buy-in—and in some cases, active participation—from key stakeholders.

Compared to more local or narrowly defined supply management efforts, enterprise-wide initiatives are more likely to impact varying groups of stakeholders with disparate perspectives and a broad range of interests. Neglecting to engage key stakeholders early and often—and with genuine intent to address their unique needs and concerns—is one of the most common points of failure of such initiatives. Too often, research shows, teams spend months gathering data and developing strategies that are never implemented due to insufficient internal and external support.

But that doesn’t mean that all enterprise-wide supply management programs are destined to fail. Far from it. During Censeo Consulting Group’s work supporting complex strategic sourcing initiatives in the U.S. federal government, where single-category spending often exceeds hundreds of millions of dollars, we’ve seen some remarkable success stories. We have observed that concerted, deliberate stakeholder outreach and management—from the outset—are critical factors that enable programs to gain traction and momentum and realize operational success.

This series of posts discusses six principles for effective stakeholder engagement that organizations from any sector—public or private—should bear in mind when planning or managing a complex, large-scale supply management program. To illustrate these general principles, we share our firm’s experience with numerous federal supply management and sourcing programs. Each example shows how early stakeholder identification and a strategic combination of outreach, communication, and involvement methods will invariably contribute to a program’s success.

Principle 1: Get to Know Your Stakeholders

The key idea here is to develop a comprehensive understanding of who your stakeholders are, what they care about, and how they relate to the initiative you’re trying to launch. The idea sounds simple enough, but many big supply management programs either neglect it altogether or limit consideration to the most obvious stakeholders. In fact, due to their scope and complexity, most enterprise-wide programs require a more comprehensive scan to identify the many disparate stakeholders involved and to understand the unique needs and interests of each.

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