Stakeholder Management Tips for Strategic Market Intelligence Teams

July 28, 2010. Market intelligence directors should not need to fight for the ears of their board or top management, but the unfortunate reality is that this still happens in some international companies. Here, we outline various strategies that have worked in real life situations, where perceptions of and interactions with the market intelligence function have been radically transformed over time.

Skilled stakeholder management is a key requirement for the raising of the market intelligence function’s profile. This has become increasingly challenging as companies expand across borders, cultures and into new segments. After identifying the key stakeholders in the organization and their needs, how can market intelligence professionals demonstrate that they are the “˜go to’ team to their stakeholders?

Here are various tips and suggestions, gathered from observations and conversations we have had with our clients over the years. When dealing with their various stakeholders, strategic market intelligence executives should take these into consideration:

Stakeholder relationship management

  • Create a stakeholder map, defining stakeholder dimensions such as higher or lower decision making powers, level of accountability and persons in charge of the relationships.
  • Proactively ensure areas that are important to your stakeholders, whether by geography, division, business unit or function, are covered. This may seem obvious but can be very challenging in execution due to limited budgets or complex organizational structures.
  • Find ways to communicate with your stakeholders on an ongoing basis.
  • Be very intentional in your efforts to become part of their strategic planning processes. Only by fully understanding their needs and intentions from the onset can you bring the most value.
  • Identify “influencers” in the organization and keep them in the loop.
  • Ensure there are sufficient functional skills and experience as well as good chemistry between the market intelligence team representatives and the stakeholder groups who are their “˜internal clients’.
  • Most times, it is better to focus on special big picture and high impact projects. It is however, also equally important to know when and how to adapt and standardize certain market intelligence for different audiences.

Organization structures

  • Set out clear and transparent job descriptions and service level agreements with different stakeholder groups. This may include the number of stakeholders to service, the scope of work and the goals.
  • Ensure that the senior management or business strategy team is aware of what you can (or cannot) do and what time frames are needed.
  • Create a balanced and holistic support structure for the organization; not forgetting procurement or marketing, in addition to strategic planning.
  • Aim for organizational structures that foster informal and open communications between the market intelligence team and key stakeholders.
  • Find and exercise the right to escalate mission critical projects and find alternative sponsors if they do not get your stakeholders’ immediate backing.

Stakeholder management tools

  • Equip your stakeholders with user-friendly market intelligence tools and systems so they are able to be self-sufficient when it comes to basic market intelligence requests.
  • Formalize the request process and keep time lines transparent.
  • Jointly create templates with your stakeholders. Be sure to include the key intelligence topic (KIT), key intelligence questions (KIQs), output and deliverables.
  • Where possible, standardize your team’s output templates so they are consistent and can save you time when it comes to updates or related requests in the future.

The real change required for better stakeholder management

The saying goes that change begins with oneself.

Improving stakeholder relations also calls for behavioral changes within the market intelligence function itself. Here are some friendly suggestions:

  • Be proactive and reach out to your stakeholders; ask for and book their time.
  • Be persistent in building trust and open communications.
  • Present facts and reasonable arguments that help enlighten your stakeholders, and do not just back up hypotheses. At times, this may mean challenging their assumptions with alternative scenarios and facts.
  • Think one step ahead of your stakeholders, so they will start to turn to your team as a trusted advisor who understand their situations.
  • Do not simply react to stakeholder requests, but proactively prepare yourself to answer critical questions should unpredictable events occur.
  • Be prepared to say “no” to requests that are not substantiated. Make your stakeholders aware that there are trade-offs between what needs to be done verse what can be done.
  • Avoid taking big risks or assumptions in any market intelligence project, as issues and business environment can change at any time during the year.
  • Request for additional budget for new projects. This will help to automatically identify the projects that are critical verses the ones that are “nice-to-have”. This can help the market intelligence team prioritize schedules and deliverables.

As long as senior market intelligence executives can demonstrate to their stakeholders that they have insightful industry knowledge and are worth listening to, there will always be a seat reserved for them at the strategic planning table.

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