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With stakeholder interests, expectations and dissatisfactions growing ever more prominent, stakeholder analysis should be a fundamental part of any business’ strategic toolkit and executive reporting framework. But for the results to be useful, it needs to move from a once-a-year internal review to an always-on, agile process.
A business is the sum of its stakeholders. The owners, investors, employees, customers, suppliers. And more broadly, the community in which is operates, the other organisations its operations impact, regulators and governance bodies, even the media that reports on it.
All have a vested interest in how it functions. All types of stakeholders have differing priorities, perspectives and requirements, and varying levels of interest in and influence on the business.
Stakeholder analysis is the process by which an organisation can identify all of its different stakeholders. It enables it to understand which are the important stakeholders, and group them by the level of participation they have in different elements of the business.
It uncovers how particular stakeholders can influence both a company and other stakeholder groups. How stakeholders and linked and interact. And how to create an engagement plan to proactively involve those stakeholders.
Performing stakeholder analysis is the first essential step in creating a stakeholder engagement plan. The more complex a business, the more involved the process of stakeholder analysis will be.
Stakeholder analysis is far more than stakeholder identification. It surfaces the expectations of stakeholders, the relationships between them, and how these elements marry or conflict with the goals of the organisation. Everyone from project managers to board members can benefit from this information.
Alignment of purpose between stakeholders and the corporation ensures sustainable success, as part of the social contract between business and the wider world. Stakeholder analysis enables this by:
The requirement for all organisations to understand their stakeholders has evolved alongside the shifting business terrain. The rise of global interconnectivity, hyper transparency, and the speed of issue proliferation have led to rapidly shifting goalposts.
With the expansion of digital communications, there is ever-greater interaction between stakeholder groups, and a blurring of the boundaries between their interests, expectations and needs.
Stakeholder management requires similarly fleet stakeholder analysis, moving away from the sole dependence on monolithic annual stakeholder surveys, the findings of which might be out of date before they are released. While direct stakeholder communication is important, this primary research can be unwieldy. It requires supplementation with analysis of alternative data, which can surface shifts in stakeholder priorities.
Stakeholders operate in a multi-channel environment – one measure is no longer sufficient to capture rapidly changing perspectives, sentiment and expectations. Traditional research methods remain valid, but suffer due to slow speeds, small sample sizes and bias. They lack robustness. An integrated metrics approach is needed, incorporating content analytics to enrich the understanding of all stakeholders.
Combining all available information on all stakeholders is the foundation of advanced stakeholder analysis. Stakeholder-specific primary research – employee reviews, customer surveys, reports from departments that deal directly with stakeholders – can generate an initial hypothesis, which is then linked to the analysis of publicly available content, such as print, online and broadcast media, and social platforms.
Content analytics, the processing of millions of pieces of content to ascertain topic, sentiment and level of influence, closes the information gap left by primary research.
Utilising artificial intelligence and machine learning, stakeholder intelligence solutions such as alva’s are able to perform this analysis of alternative data quickly, cost effectively and accurately.
Employing these tools, the stakeholder analysis process encompasses the following stages:
Once this initial analysis has been completed, it will need to be maintained and enhanced through ongoing listening and engagement with stakeholders to assess developments in these priorities and expectations. Newly emergent topics of interest, risks and opportunities can be fed back into the initial framework, to ensure that the business has a clear understanding of the strength of its relationships with all key stakeholders.