Engaging stakeholders during your construction project

San Luis Obispo Airport Terminal Opening

Engaging stakeholders during your construction project

Engaging each of your stakeholders early and often is essential for your project’s success.

Being busy. A group of content engineers in hardhats standing together in a new building and working while using a digital tablet, plans and different papers

Project communication and collaboration are vital to finding success across projects. With many team members, tenants, vendors, and owners working at home for the foreseeable future, keeping your stakeholders engaged can be challenging.

Nearly every person involved in a construction project is already buried in conference calls and emails and for many stakeholders, construction projects are not their primary jobs or concerns until it comes time to transition. But at transition time, it’s far too late to start collaborating with your stakeholders. Therefore, its critically important to balance stakeholder communications and engage different groups at the appropriate time.

Here are a few tips on how to appropriately engage stakeholders on your project.

1. Create a plan

The goal of a stakeholder engagement plan is to create positive relationships with stakeholders through the appropriate management of expectations. Stakeholder engagement plans are typically completed by an ORAT team at the initiation phase of a project. The plan should have written steps on how your project will collaborate and engage with each of your stakeholders.

Stakeholder engagement plans should include the following elements:

A list of stakeholders that should be involved in your project. This list should include anyone that will be impacted because of your project.

Primary contacts for each stakeholder. Each identified stakeholder will have a different level of required involvement in your project. Be sure to identify who the key contacts will be for each of your stakeholders. This typically includes primary and secondary representatives, training coordinators, and corporate contacts that need to be informed.

Identification of the type of outreach effort for each stakeholder. Some stakeholders will just need to be informed through project newsletters. Other stakeholders with more impact will need to be engaged in recurring meetings and working groups.

The frequency in which your communications methods will occur. In some cases, working group meetings and newsletters may increase or decrease throughout different phases of a project. Its important to set a schedule in your plan and adjust as needed. If there are lows in the project, its ok to give your stakeholders a short break. There is little point in having meetings or sharing newsletters that do not have relevant actionable content.

Lists of the working groups for your project, and which stakeholders will be included. Details should include how often the working group will meet and what the goals and objectives for each group will be.

Plans for expectation management and issue resolution. Its important to understand the chain of command across a project—who is responsible from the project team, ORAT team, and owners’ team for communicating with each of your audiences. This will help with the “mom said no, so I am going to ask dad” issue that often occurs on projects. Its often beneficial to create a responsibility assignment matrix (RACI) diagram and include it in your plan so everyone understands each stakeholder’s role.

2. Include the right stakeholders and have a single source of truth

Bringing the right people to the table is the second step to success. Not everyone will agree with the project or decisions being made, but its important to involve them early in the process. Its much easier to capture stakeholder acceptance at the start of a project than during the handover phase.

Don’t forget to look outside the boundaries of your projects: often, some of the most critical stakeholders are public members or the users of your new facility. For example, if you are building a pet relief room to accommodate individuals with service animals, create a focus group at the start of the project to learn and understand what would make this amenity most useful for them, the primary user of the new facility element. Be sure to involve your design and project teams in each of your working or focus group meetings to capture the feedback and incorporate it into the project.

Below is a list of some common working groups and associated stakeholders for an airport project:

Maintenance
  • Facilities Management
  • Plumbing Shop
  • Paint Shop
  • Boarding Bridge Shop
  • Conveyor/Baggage Team
  • Maintenance Departments Tasked with Maintaining the Facility & Systems
  • Project Representative or Capital Liaisons for Maintenance
Facilities and Infrastructure
  • Asset Management Team
  • Facilities & Systems Engineers
  • Signage and Wayfinding Shop
  • Standards and Architecture Representative
  • Project Representative for Commissioning
  • Project Representative for Architecture and Design
Operations
  • Landside Ops
  • Airside Ops
  • Safety Department
  • Ground Transportation Providers
  • Parking Team
  • Gate Scheduling Team
  • Communications Center Staff
  • Project Representative
State and Federal Agencies
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • State and Local Certificate-Issuing and Code Authorities
  • Project Manager
Marketing, Events, and Comms
  • Marketing Team
  • Public Relations Team
  • Event Coordination Team
  • Consultants that Assist with Events, Marketing, or Public Relations
  • Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Bureau
  • Prime Contractor Public Relations/Marketing Team
  • Project Manager
Commercial Management
  • Lease Management
  • Tenants and Vendors
  • Load Dock Coordinators
  • Project Members in Charge of Occupancy and Space Design/Allocation
Information Technology / Special Systems
  • Project IT Manager
  • Access Control / Badging Team
  • Network and IT Engineers
  • Digital Content Controllers (FIDS, BIDS, Advertising, Visual Paging)
  • Voice Paging Team Members
  • Security camera and Response Team
  • Communications Center Staff
Public / Community Group
  • General Public/Customers/Facility Users
  • Airline Loyalty Program (Million Milers)
  • Airline or Tenant VIP Customers & Businesses
  • Adjacent Landowners
  • Community Advisory Groups for Project Elements
  • Moms (Nursing Room Element)
  • Service Animal Owners (Pet Relief Element)
  • Volunteers

Each project working group can be split up and created based on the elements of your project and meet at varying schedules. Some smaller focus groups may be required to accomplish specific goals.

Involving a variety of stakeholders will inevitably lead to conflict during the course of the project. Don’t get discouraged! Conflict on projects is only negative when there is not a shared framework available for stakeholders and project members to collaborate on and work toward a balanced vision. Stakeholders that have shared values and guidance can typically be led to an agreement or consent.

Identify who will manage each of these working groups on your project, and make sure that each project team member and stakeholder understands who to contact when they have questions or need help. Filtering all stakeholders’ requests and communications through a single source of truth such as an ORAT team will help ensure that competing priorities become aligned and everyone is working from a single vision.

3. Start early

Projects have diminishing returns the closer you get to opening day, and the longer you wait to discover who is missing from the table. Stakeholders are looking for transparency across projects, but most importantly, they are looking for consistency.

Regular, timely, and accurate communications with your stakeholders will build trust. When trust is established, project stakeholders will feel empowered to collaborate, attend meetings, and provide critical technical and operational insight that will make your facilities operate more efficiently after handover.

Stakeholders will become discouraged when critical project decisions are made without involving the right people. Each stakeholder brings their own experience and expertise to the table. These involvements can shed new light on project elements and prevent conflicts before they happen. Waiting until the end to bring in stakeholders can lead to a lack of acceptance, redoing parts of the project, or creating mitigations to make things work in less-than-ideal conditions.

4. Make your content easy to understand

Construction projects are typically full of complicated drawings and technical specifications. Many stakeholders do not have any experience reading these types of materials. Presenting materials that are difficult to read often leads to stakeholders blindly agreeing to things they do not understand or simply ignoring them.

When critical decisions need to be made, its important that each stakeholder has a project representative that can work with them through a working group or site tour to explain the impacts of these decisions.

Sample brochure from Aviatrix Communications of easy to understand stakeholder materials

A few questions to consider include:

  • How will it affect their current procedures and operations?
  • Will the new design flow efficiently?
  • Will staff need training on the new system, process, layout, equipment, or workflow?
  • Is the equipment something that requires different staff skill sets, tools, or certifications to maintain, or are there opportunities to utilize exiting technologies for uniformity?
  • Is the lowest-cost option really the best option or will it result in more downtime, a shorter life span, and new contracts or spare-parts stock to maintain?

Consider your audience when presenting technical project information and create presentations and drawings that are straightforward and user-friendly. Blue Beam and Adobe Acrobat are great tools to mark up drawings and apply colorful overlays, mark out routes, or quickly highlight paths and procedures.

5. Use engagement tools

There’s no doubt that projects have a lot of information to communicate and a lot of stakeholders to engage. There are a variety of engagement tools that can bring all of a project’s content together in a collaborative, clear, and effective means.

Here are a few engagement tools to consider:

  • Axis ORAT Software
  • Working Groups
  • Familiarization and Site Tours
  • One on One Meetings
  • Newsletters
  • Social Media Updates
  • Project Information Kits
  • Project Websites
  • Project Information Stations and Signage
  • Public Open Houses
  • User-Friendly Materials and Renderings
  • Surveys and Interviews
  • Interactive Virtual Tours
  • Public Tours
  • Community Events
  • Operational Trials

Finding new innovative ways to engage with project stakeholders and align each person’s vision to a single balanced plan is no easy task. Modern technologies such as Axis ORAT Software are helping project owners and teams easily collaborate and engage with their stakeholders in a templated, organized, and easy-to-use system. There are many benefits to using an integrated cloud-based solution that outweigh the cost of ownership and allows project owners to replace antiquated manual email and spreadsheet-based processes.

Adding Axis ORAT Software to your toolbox allows stakeholders to quickly manage a variety of complex processes in a single collaborative application. This means that you will no longer need to worry about version control issues, human error, or spending time each week creating manual reports. Axis ORAT Software includes real-time dashboards and reports that give your executive teams and project owners insight and transparency into the health of each project. Our proven processes allow executive teams to make proactive data-driven decisions and open their new facilities with confidence.

Contact us today at solutions@axisorat.com if you are ready to easily bring transparency, collaboration, and engagement to your project.

Kyle Elliott
About the Author
Kyle Elliott, C.M., A.C.E., is the chief executive officer at Axis ORAT, and has provided ORAT consulting services to more than a dozen projects over the past 11 years. Kyle has an extensive understanding of operational readiness, activation, and transition and is passionate about helping project owners and teams successfully complete projects.
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