by Michelle Hunt, Director, Alliance Management Operations
We all know what a “stakeholder” is. Generally, it’s someone with an interest in the activity and/or decisions of an organization (think holding a stake in something). Now let’s talk about “stakeholdering”, a term used less often. Stakeholdering, in and of itself, is a communications process. It refers to communicating to a target audience in a way where you will gain their awareness, support or buy in for your idea or effort such that they will become a “stakeholder” in your cause, or of gathering support for a common mission, goal or objective.
Nowhere is stakeholdering more essential than when forming collaborations. Trade groups, consortia, Special Interest Groups (SIGs), alliances and every collaboration, by definition, needs stakeholders. Stakeholders form the necessary fabric that underlies successful collectives. Stakeholders support the mission of the organization. They recognize the value in the purpose of the group. They willingly engage and contribute to work product that can be significantly impactful to their company and their sector in industry, government or academia.
So, knowing how critical stakeholders are to today’s collaborations, how do we realize successful stakeholdering within a collaboration? Is it just a matter of honing your persuasive speaking skills or is there more involved? And how do we measure a successful stakeholdering process? Is it a numbers game where the more stakeholders, the merrier? Or is there a targeting process involved?
To answer these and other related questions, you must view stakeholdering as an art.
The Art of Stakeholdering
Know your Value Proposition – Any collaboration that is going to be attractive to stakeholders where individuals and entities join and contribute their valuable time, energy and effort (and typically dollars) needs to have a value proposition that is clear, achievable and impactful, and is aligned with the goals of each stakeholder. For high technology collaborations, you want to ensure that your purpose in forming provides value in:
- Meeting the individual goals of each stakeholder (how they will benefit from the collaboration)
- Developing a common view of an industry opportunity
- Evangelizing emerging technologies and enabling the market deployment of new technologies
- Identifying gaps in current technical solutions and offering new solutions
- Standardizing a new or existing technology to realize increased benefits to users
- Harmonizing various standards in a specific technology sphere
- Promoting technology and/or standards adoption
…and the list goes on.
While it seems obvious that value is required before forming a collaboration, many groups make the mistake of having a high-level or broad objective that lends itself to multiple interpretations after a group forms. These are the groups that suffer after formation and can spend months and years, yes years, discussing what they SHOULD do rather than DOING it. So know your value proposition.
Know Your Proof Points – Now that you know your value proposition, you need to message it. Messaging requires knowing your proof points. Proof points are generally the content you develop that substantiates your value proposition, and provide concrete examples of how the value proposition will be realized and the associated benefits. Proof Points need to be clearly conveyed and applicable to your audience.
Know Your Ecosystem – Once you understand the value you provide, you should be fully cognizant of who comprises your industry ecosystem. An ecosystem represents all of the various sectors that can support a given technology and/or technical offering, and have a vested interest in the success of the technology. Think developers, manufacturers, resellers, suppliers, end users, or regulators. All of these entities that touch, or are impacted by, your specific technology or subject matter represent your ecosystem. This is where your stakeholders reside. Knowing your stakeholders and the impactyour idea has on each ecosystem member is critical to your successful stakeholdering. You need to target this audience to make your pitch.
Create a Pitch Deck – Put a slide deck together to support the meetings and presentations to promote your idea for a collaboration. Pitch decks should include your reason for forming, the value proposition, mission statement, planned work initiatives, the target ecosystem, and any tentative roadmaps and timelines you might have for achieving success. Don’t forget to put a slide with your proposed group’s branding on it. It doesn’t have to be a final branding, but selling a collaboration is definitely boosted when it looks like the organization is already formed.
Relationship Build – Stakeholdering is much more than persuasive speech. It involves active listening and dialogue with your targeted stakeholders. It requires building relationships with these entities and successfully articulating the mutual benefit your collaborative idea will provide to not only you both, but your entire industry and/or technical sector. In the pre-formation stage of an industry alliance, it may also involve modifying your value proposition, proof points or industry ecosystem, based on valuable input from stakeholders.
Synthesis – Incorporating what the stakeholdering process discovers to enhance the above steps.
Once you have cultivated relationships and achieved buy-in from a critical core of founders in your collaboration, you are off to the races. Contact IEEE-ISTO (www.ieee-isto.org) and we will support you with agile, cost effective and successful legal and operational services, so you can roll up your sleeves and get to work on initiatives that will drive the realization of the goals of your industry alliance. IEEE-ISTO can also provide guidance in your pre formation stakeholdering activities, to better position you for a successful collaboration.