stakeholder collaboration

Stakeholder collaboration is key to delivering successful projects – where everyone is satisfied and happy in the end.

When working on a project, involving stakeholders at every stage ensures alignment, transparency, and efficient decision-making.

By reading this guide, you’ll understand the basics of stakeholder collaboration, its benefits, challenges, and how to overcome them. You’ll also discover a list of free and paid collaboration tools to use to improve the process.

This article discusses stakeholder collaboration in the context of collaborating on digital assets like websites, apps, eLearning courses, PDF documents, videos, and more.

What is Stakeholder Collaboration?

First, let’s define “stakeholder”.

A stakeholder is an individual, group, or organization that has a stake or an interest in something. In this case, a project.

So…

Stakeholder collaboration refers to the process of involving people who have an interest in a project in discussions, decisions, and actions – concerning that project.

Project stakeholders can include project managers, specialists or experts working on the project, clients, users, etc.

During the collaboration process, each project party performs a crucial role to ensure the success of the project.

For instance, clients and users will review the project and provide feedback on the digital asset, and a project manager will triage feedback and assign tasks. All these people have a stake in the project but they play different roles to ensure its success.

What are the Types of Stakeholder Collaboration?

Internal Stakeholder Collaboration

Internal stakeholder collaboration refers to collaboration with team members within your organization. They include departments, management, directors, etc.

For instance, for a web design project, the internal stakeholders can include an account manager, web designer, UI/UX designer, copywriter, graphic designer, department lead, etc.

Collaborating with internal stakeholders will involve regular meetings, feedback sessions, and alignment on project goals.

It’s worth noting that collaborating with internal stakeholders is usually more easier and straightforward than it is with external stakeholders. This is because everyone is familiar with the processes and tools. You may only need little to no adjustments on a case-by-case basis.

External Stakeholder Collaboration

External stakeholder collaboration refers to collaboration with people or groups of people with a stake in the project, who are outside of your organization. They include users, investors, partners, SMEs, and clients, among others.

Collaborating with them requires tools that bridge organizational gaps and facilitate smooth and efficient non-technical stakeholder collaboration. And this is where the challenge lies.

Because the tools you use internally may not be favorable to external stakeholders. Additionally, external stakeholders may have a hard time adjusting to internal processes.

However, you must bear in mind that they’re the owners. They bring in the money. So how do you make them happy and ensure that they can come back again?

I’ll show you shortly. But for now…

4 Benefits of Stakeholder Collaboration

Stakeholder collaboration, when done right,

Ensures Alignment and Consensus

Effective collaboration between internal and external stakeholders ensures everyone is on the same page and minimizes misunderstandings and conflicts. This alignment across the board keeps the project focused and on track.

Facilitates Faster Decision-Making

Involving stakeholders early accelerates project timelines and prevents delays that may increase costs. This is because stakeholders will be able to give feedback earlier in the project and issues will be resolved in time. This will lead to quick decision-making and shorter project cycles.

Improves Quality

Diverse stakeholder perspectives enhance the final product or service. Therefore, involving relevant stakeholders and getting their feedback in time enables you to identify blind spots and ensures the product or service meets user needs and exceeds user and client expectations.

Enhances Accountability

When you clearly define roles and assign specific tasks to stakeholders, it fosters accountability. This is because each stakeholder will be compelled to take ownership of their contributions and respective tasks. This will ensure smoother workflows, reduce missed deadlines, and enhance shared responsibility.

5 Challenges Teams Face During Stakeholder Collaboration and How to Overcome Them

Lack of Engagement

This is usually with external stakeholders. Some may not actively participate in the project for reasons like unfavorable timelines, and not knowing what and how to give feedback or contribute, among others.

Solution: Encourage engagement by using intuitive visual review and feedback tools to collect feedback.

Additionally, put systems in place to ensure that clients can give feedback asynchronously so they can have the flexibility of time to actively participate. Of course, you can have fixed times for feedback sessions, which everyone will agree on. But also allow external stakeholders to give feedback async.

Security and Data Privacy Issues

In digital collaboration, security and data privacy are important. So how do you ensure that the sensitive information you’re sharing with stakeholders is safe and secure during file sharing?

Solution: Use secure collaboration tools like Trello, Asana, zipBoard, or Basecamp. These platforms offer controlled access, encryption, and permission settings.

I recommend zipBoard as it gives you the option to keep your files in your own cloud storage without having to transfer them to the web app (even though that is also secure). Once you integrate zipBoard with your cloud storage, you can collaborate seamlessly without moving files.

Conflicting Priorities

This often happens when stakeholders have different priorities based on their roles, responsibilities, and organizational goals. Also, this can arise as a result of differing opinions on some aspects of the project. These conflicting priorities can lead to delays and disagreements.

Solution: Manage conflicting priorities by involving all stakeholders in prioritizing tasks. During this period, discuss trade-offs and align on what matters most. Secondly, regularly revisit project goals. And as priorities shift, adjust the project plan accordingly.

Communication Gaps

Communication gaps occur when information isn’t effectively shared among team members or stakeholders.

Additionally, when stakeholders do not have a clear overview of the project, tasks, and progress statuses, it creates gaps. These often lead to misunderstandings, missed updates, and lack of clarity. And they hinder progress.

Solution: Conduct regular check-ins to discuss project status, address concerns, and ensure everyone is informed.

Now, this is all well and good. But stakeholders, especially external stakeholders will not always be available for your regular check-ins. So you must make it easier for them to access this information.

To resolve this, use a centralized collaboration, communication, and project management tool that centralizes communication and feedback and ensures everyone is on the same page at all times. A good example is zipBoard.

stakeholder collaboration - customizable workflows in zipBoard
Organize projects into phases and give permission to stakeholders to at least view to stay updated - zipBoard

Lack of User-Friendly Collaboration Tools for External Stakeholders

External stakeholders, such as clients and users may struggle with complex collaboration and feedback tools. If the tools are not user-friendly, they will not actively participate, and even if they do, feedback will not be effective.

Solution: Select user-friendly collaboration and feedback tools like zipBoard – that have a simple and intuitive interface, and bridge the gap between internal and external stakeholder collaboration.

Tools to Ensure Efficient Stakeholder Collaboration

1. Communication and Messaging Tools: To facilitate real-time communication, discussions, and notifications.

Examples: Slack, Microsoft Teams

2. Project Management and Task Tracking Tools: To manage tasks, deadlines, and project progress.

Examples: Trello, Wrike, Asana, Jira, zipBoard

3. File Collaboration and Sharing Tools: For collaborative editing, version control, and file sharing.

Examples: Google Workspace (formerly G Suite), Microsoft OneDrive

4. Visual Collaboration Tools: For reviewing and collaborating on digital assets such as websites, web apps, courses, images, videos, zip files, audio, and PDF documents among others.

Examples: Miro, zipBoard

5. Video Conferencing and Webinar Platforms: To facilitate virtual meetings, presentations, and discussions.

Examples: Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams

6. Feedback and Review Platforms: To streamline feedback collection and review cycles.

Examples: zipBoard

How zipBoard Enhances Stakeholder Collaboration for All Your Projects

Unified Visual Review Platform

A central hub to streamline the review and approval process for various digital assets, including live URLs (websites and apps), videos, images, PDF documents, and zip files (such as SCORM courses).

Projects dashboard in zipBoard for a shop drawing review process
Collaborate and manage multiple projects simultaneously across multiple offices in zipBoard

User-Friendly Web App

Simplifies feedback and QA for all stakeholders. zipBoard bridges the technical gap between internal team members and external stakeholders

Customizable Workflow Phases

Organize your workflows and increase productivity by creating customizable phases. Whether it’s backlog, testing, or storyboard review, zipBoard keeps your process organized and optimized.

Contextual Collaboration and Annotations

Stakeholders can directly mark up and provide feedback on the file under review using zipBoard’s annotation tools. This ensures clarity of feedback and minimizes misunderstandings.

web design feedback and qa in zipBoard
Annotate and collaborate on websites and web apps in zipBoard

Automated Feedback Conversion

zipBoard automatically converts annotations and comments into tasks and organizes them in the task manager. This ensures efficient task management and reduces the time spent on organizing tasks.

Flexible Sharing Options

Collaborate seamlessly in one place by inviting all stakeholders to the project based on various sharing options and permissions.

stakeholder collaboration
Sharing Options - zipBoard

Integrations and APIs

Integrate zipBoard with your existing tools and workflows to prevent the hassle of moving project files between platforms. Save time and streamline your processes.

Kanban and Spreadsheet Views

Manage and organize tasks in your preferred view, whether it’s Kanban boards or spreadsheet-style layouts.

stakeholder collaboration
Kanban and List views of tasks and issues in zipBoard

Robust Security Controls

zipBoard ensures standard and private security measures to safeguard hosted data and files. Additionally, zipBoard allows you to keep your files in your cloud store for security purposes.

Autogenerated Reports

Access auto-generated and consolidated reports to track project progress—all conveniently located in one place. Say goodbye to manually creating progress reports.

No Licenses Required for Every Stakeholder

Only project admins and managers may require licenses. However, other internal team members and external stakeholders do not need licenses to use zipBoard during stakeholder collaboration. With just an invite link, project parties can get access and provide feedback.

No Sign-Up Hassle

Your clients do not want to sign up to the platform? No problem! Just deactivate the sign-up option when sharing project links with stakeholders who do not want to sign up to zipBoard to access project documents.

Get Started with Stakeholder Collaboration using zipBoard

Sign up for zipBoard and…

Create a New Project and Add Your First File

Click the “+ Add content” button to add your initial asset (e.g., a storyboard). Then follow the prompts to upload the file.

Add Internal Stakeholders as Collaborators

Use the menu icon on the project you created and click on “Share”. Alternatively, you can use the collaborators feature under Projects in the left panel.

Organize Workflow with Phases

Create phases based on your organizational needs (e.g., backlog, test, storyboard review). Subsequently, organize tasks within these phases.

Share Digital Assets for Internal Review

Stakeholders can access the platform and provide feedback on the uploaded assets.

The email stakeholders receive when invited to collaborate in zipBoard

Internal Stakeholders Provide Feedback

Cross-functional team members can now use zipBoard’s visual review and annotation tools to give contextual feedback on the shared assets.

Create a Share Link for External Stakeholders

Follow the same steps used for adding internal team members. For clients, end-users, and other external stakeholders, customize their access by adjusting sharing features. Limit their access to specific digital assets as needed.

how to create a document review hub in zipBoard
Editing sharing options in zipBoard

External Stakeholder Collaboration

External stakeholders can now collaborate by providing feedback on the accessible digital assets. They can use zipBoard’s annotation tools to leave comments, ensuring effective communication.

using annotation and commenting tools in zipBoard to give contextualized feedback during creative proofing
Using annotation and commenting tools in zipBoard to give contextualized feedback

Organize, Triage, and Prioritize Comments and Tasks

Comments and feedback from both internal and external stakeholders are automatically converted into tasks within zipBoard. Review each task, assign them to the relevant stakeholders, and prioritize based on urgency. The project manager can adjust priority status, assign due dates, and add comments as necessary.

Upload the New Version

Once internal stakeholders address assigned issues, the project manager can upload the updated file for review in the next phase (according to your workflow). Invite relevant stakeholders to review the new version.

Repeat Steps 4-8

Continue this collaborative cycle for iterative improvements and successful project outcomes.

stakeholder collaboration for design feedback and QA process
Example of a stakeholder collaboration for design feedback and QA process

Implementing zipBoard into our development process has taken the team from using antiquated manual processes to an easy to use, globally accessible, online process. zipBoard’s environment allows multiple projects to be set up and managed uniquely; where other tools force a specific method for everything, zipBoard gives you and your team some elbow room. The client and the internal team can both access the data while still preserving the integrity and security of internal information.

Improve Stakeholder Collaboration with zipBoard

Start your free trial or book a demo today so that we can create a tailored solution for you.

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Author’s bio:

Dorcas Kpabitey is a Content Marketing Specialist at zipBoard. She began her content marketing journey alongside her BA in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Ghana. If she is not tapping away at her keyboard or spending time on Twitter and LinkedIn, she spends her day reading articles, newsletters and books.

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