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Stakeholder acceptance is the formal acknowledgement by stakeholders that the project objectives have been met.
When to use
Stakeholder acceptance must be complete for the project to complete. However, acceptance of all project deliverables does not need to be delayed until the end of the project. Stakeholders can be formally accepting project deliverables as they are completed.
Acceptance should be conducted by someone not on the project team, to avoid any conflict of interest. The stakeholders who should be doing the acceptance are those most interested in the respective deliverable, or their delegates. For instance, if a deliverable was a marketing plan, someone from the marketing department (the head of marketing or their delegate) should review this deliverable. When doing incremental acceptance, I recommend that at the end of each phase you formally document which deliverable s were accepted in that phase so that there is no confusion at the end of the project.
- Complete the project deliverable based upon the deliverable requirements.
- Verify by a project team member that the deliverable is complete.
- Determine with the stakeholder how stakeholder acceptance will occur (meeting, test, review).
- Schedule the stakeholder acceptance activity.
- Record any deficiencies and enter them on the Project Punch List.
- Correct the deficiencies and resubmit the deliverable for review/analysis.
Hints & tips
- Unless you have worked with a stakeholder before and fully understand their expectations, assume that they will want some minor change or “tweak” in the deliverable. Allow enough time and resources in the project plan to do the change.
- Some stakeholders do not do a thorough job at stakeholder acceptance and then come back after completion and complain that the work was not done correctly. If the stakeholder does not have the time to do the review, work with them to find an alternative acceptance method.
- Stakeholders often try to “move the finish line” at this time and ask for more performance from the team. This scope creep can turn an otherwise successful project into a failure. Start the stakeholder review by going over the requirements for the deliverable (I assume you had their buy-in on the original requirements). If they want to change those, stop the review and ask them to submit a change order to senior management for a change in the project scope.
- A change may be the right thing to do, if business or market conditions have changed. Don’t be “pin-headed” about insisting on the old requirements. Acknowledge the need for the change, work to get the change approved, and then revise the deliverable.
- If any deficiencies are discovered during the stakeholder acceptance process, capture those on a punch list and aggressively work to close those out.
- Get the stakeholder to sign off on the punch list as being the only items that must be done to complete the deliverable.
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