A confused looking business person, with fears of disasters all around him.

Addressing Concerns of Non-Tech Stakeholders: Common Fears and How to Alleviate Them

There are many different types of technical and digital projects, from software and application development to digital strategy marketing plans, and more. But as a digital technical project manager, it’s imperative to recognize that stakeholders, especially those who are experts in their own fields but not in technology, often harbor concerns and fears about the project process. If not addressed, these fears can become significant roadblocks that affect not just the project’s progress but also the overall project team’s relationship. Today’s topic explores the common fears these types of stakeholders have regarding technical and digital projects and provides actionable solutions project managers can implement to alleviate these concerns.

Understanding the Root of Fear: Technical Inadequacy

The fear of technical inadequacy isn’t just about not understanding the technology; it’s about feeling inadequate in an area critical to their business or interests. For many stakeholders, especially those who are subject matter experts (SMEs) in their own non-tech fields, not being the knowledge-authority in the room is an unfamiliar and often uncomfortable experience. This unfamiliar position may lead to insecurity, fear, and sometimes resistance to the workflow of the process. 

The Central Role of Communication

At the heart of many misunderstandings and fears is a lack of proper, effective communication. When stakeholders are not regularly informed, or when the information is either too technical or too sparse, misunderstandings flourish. A seasoned project manager has learned effective communication is not about bombarding stakeholders with data that drowns them OR withholding key details about the work because it would be too difficult to explain. Effective communication is thoughtfully planned for and prepared by the PM and is about providing stakeholders with relevant, understandable, and timely information that (ultimately) leads to successful project acceptance.

Preempting Fears with Strategic Planning

  • Requirement Identification: When stakeholders are included as an integral part of the initial conversations (and they ARE!), they feel more in control and understand the project’s trajectory better. Begin by identifying requirements clearly and actively involve stakeholders in this process. 
  • Risk Identification and Mitigation Planning: From the initial kick-off, discuss potential risks to the project’s process and collectively discuss and develop strategies to mitigate these possible risks. During subsequent regularly-scheduled team meetings, revisit these risks and the mitigation strategies. Discuss and amend them further as appropriate. This action helps remind stakeholders that while risks are part of the process, there are plans in place to address them and this fosters confidence in the project management team.

Managing Change with Constant Communication

Changes in scope or direction can be alarming for stakeholders, particularly if they come unexpectedly. To manage this:

  • Implement Regular Updates: When stakeholders are kept in the loop, changes aren’t a surprise but rather part of the evolving project landscape. A good digital technical project manager will use tactics such as status updates, reports, and regular in-person meetings to keep stakeholders informed. 
  • Build and Encourage a Change-Friendly Culture: As the project’s PM, encourage a culture where change is seen as an opportunity to produce an even-better project rather than a threat to its success. Highlight how previous changes have led to better outcomes. And of course, a good digital technical project manager would have already introduced the  change management process at the beginning of the project, so stakeholders won’t be blind-sided at the possibility of changes to the project.

Actionable Steps to Alleviate Fears

  • Educate and Inform: Use training sessions, workshops, or simple educational content to demystify the technical aspects. We have found even a simple ‘definitions’ document that stakeholders may refer to is extremely helpful.  Knowledge reduces fear!
  • Showcase Success Stories: Share stories of past projects where digital and  technical complexities were successfully managed. This not only builds credibility but also shows stakeholders what’s possible.
  • Foster Inclusivity: Involve stakeholders in decision-making processes. When they contribute, they understand more and fear less. And, it supports buy-in and increases project success.
  • Be Available: Just the small act of being accessible makes a huge difference in alleviating stakeholder concerns. At the beginning of the project, a good PM will have established a thorough, documented communication plan with all relevant contact information. During the life of the project, reiterate to your stakeholders that the project management team is available to discuss concerns in a timely manner.  

Conclusion

Addressing the fears of non-technical stakeholders in technical and digital projects is not just about providing reassurances; it’s about engaging these individuals in a strategic, thoughtful manner that builds confidence and trust in the project team and the project’s success. By communicating regularly and effectively, planning strategically, and managing changes adeptly, a skilled digital technical project manager will transform apprehension to full project support. You’ve got this!💪

Ready to bring your digital technical project to life? Contact Technology Project Solutions today and get started!