Part II of: Managing a Library Website Redesign Project
In my last post, I referred to the work being done by my project Stakeholders to define the design requirements for our library’s new website. I thought that perhaps I ought to elaborate a bit here on the role and selection of the Stakeholders for our project.
The concept of project stakeholders
Project management principles dictate that a Stakeholder is essentially anyone who has at vested interest in the success of the project and contributes to its outcome.
Stakeholders are persons or organizations (e.g., customers, sponsors, the performing organization, or the public), who are actively involved in the project or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the performance or completion of the project.
Stakeholders may also exert influence over the project, its deliverables, and the project team members.
— Project Management Guide of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), 4th ed.
Because so many of the services and collections we provide to our customers are web-based e-resources, one could make the argument that virtually every single librarian and member of our staff, as well as our university instructional faculty and our students, have a vested interest in the outcome of the website redesign.
To help me refine the Stakeholder concept a bit more for this project, I consulted Dennis Fassett, one of my project management mentors. Dennis is a friend from my college days who is also a highly experienced credentialed Project Management Professional (PMP).
Dennis explained to me last November:
As a rule, the stakeholder group must be limited to decision makers. That means someone with direct veto power over one of your three constraints – scope, schedule, or resources. Nobody else can be part of the group of stakeholders. I call them the steering committee when the project is large enough.
Stakeholders to me are the people that control the definition of success.
— Dennis P. Fassett, PMP.
Senior Manager, Solution Center, Capgemini Americas
Following Dennis’s advise and PMBOK guidelines, I identified my key Stakeholders — our project Board of Directors (BOD) — as:
- The University Librarian (Project Sponsor): The UL is the person within our organization who has the final authority over our budget, our personnel resources, and ultimately the finished product. The bucks stops with him. His position empowers him to veto a decision made by the other Stakeholders.
- The Associate University Librarian (AUL)/Systems Head: As AUL, she has authority over the administrative staff who will become some of the main content managers for the new site. As head of Library Systems, she has direct authority over our Systems budget, and our team — the people developing the site and doing much of the “management” end of this project.
- The Collection & Processing Services (CPS) Unit Head: As CPS head, she has direct authority over much of our e-resources budget and the CPS personnel responsible for maintaining many of the discovery tools that have to integrate with our new website.
- The Access Services (ACC) Unit Head: As ACC head, he has direct authority over the staff who will have to work with the new website to manage much of our content, as well as the budget and staff responsible for e-access tools that integrate with our site, such as online course reserves and our interlibrary loan system.
- The Instruction & Information Services (I&IS) Unit Head: As I&IS head, she has authority over the librarians who will have to use the new site when conducting reference and instruction sessions, and over the e-reference systems that integrate with our site (such as chat reference).
Applying this concept to an academic library setting
Identifying these key Stakeholders presented me with a bit of a dilemma due to the nature of our library organizational structure, and particular to academia and the organizational culture of higher education institutions. These five Stakeholders already function as a group and work well together, because they are part of the University Librarian’s Council (ULC) — our library management team, who is responsible for library policy.
My dilemma revolved around three issues. First, although ULC has direct authority over library budget, personnel, library systems, and policy, they do not retain sole authority. The Library has an interdependent relationship with university Academic Affairs, the Academic Senate, the Division of Information Technology, and our departmental faculty governance documents.
Second, although PMBOK guidelines recognize students and instructional faculty as Customers instead of Stakeholders, as an academic entity, we are compelled to place the highest consideration upon meeting the research and educati0nal needs of these two groups — both of whom have a vested interest in our website to meet their research needs.
And third, our management team (the ULC) has a sixth member, our Department Chair. Because the library operates at the level of a college within the university, our library faculty belong to an academic department, which is headed by a Chair. However, the Department Chair does not have direct authority over a budget or the faculty personnel involved in this project. Yet omitting the Chair from the key Stakeholder group would disrupt the cohesiveness of that existing team.
My solution was to address all three of these issues with a single decision based on diplomacy — to include our Department Chair as one of the now six key Stakeholders. She would essentially represent the larger campus community, particularly students and instructional faculty.
Is this predicament unique to us?
Since we are deep into the requirements definition stage of our project, I have often wondered if this Stakeholder identification dilemma is unique to our project or to our organization. Do other academic organizations face a similar challenge? Does the complex nature of academic organization culture force project managers in this field to take a more flexible approach to identifying Stakeholders?
While preparing this blog post, to reassure myself that I wasn’t coming out of left field by questioning if Stakeholder definition might be a bit different in an academic environment, particularly an academic library environment, I turned to yet another project management mentor of mine — this time one in a more similar work environment to mine.
Joan Starr is the Manager of Strategic and Project Planning at the California Digital Library. We have never actually met, but sometime in the past year we stumbled upon each other’s Twitter posts and have become professional Twitter pals. I frequently hit Joan up for library systems-related project management advise, and she is always prompt and helpful with her responses.
When I asked Joan this week to share with me her criteria for identifying Stakeholders when embarking on a new project, she explained how she analyzes prospective Stakeholders:
I think about these kinds of things:
- Who is paying for the project? (not “The people of California” but someone’s departmental budget)
- Who will be using the project outcomes?
- Who gets to make the decisions about the project (if this is different from the money source)?
- Who has resources I need to get the project done? (think also about interdependencies)
- Whose work will my project affect? (during the project and also once the project is completed).
— Joan Starr,
Manager, Strategic and Project Planning, CDL
Joan elaborates upon her process in a blog post she wrote earlier this year.
Concluding thoughts on Stakeholders
Because of the highly collegial nature of our organizational culture, the bureaucratic nature of academia, the high profile nature of this project, and the commitment our library faculty have to our students and professors, my deviation from PMBOK principles seems to be the right decision so far, in order for this project to be able to succeed in the eyes of our entire Stakeholder community.
My key Stakeholder group — the Project BOD — is working together in a cohesive productive fashion.
And selection of this group appears to be generating buy-in from our broader Stakeholder community.
Have you faced similar challenges when selecting Stakeholders for projects that you have managed?