Do we get what we want?

On stakeholder management related to the verification and validation process in large infrastructure projects

More Info


The increased complexity and changes in collaboration between involved actors in the realization of large infrastructure projects (LIP’s) cause major challenges. One of these challenges entails meeting stakeholders’ requirements through verification and validation (V&V) during the design phase. Coordinating the design with the stakeholders can easily lead to delays or bad relationships. The V&V process originates from systems engineering (SE) and it seems that an attempt is being made to reduce the complexity by performing the V&V process in a systematic way. However, various researchers indicate that there is a need for interaction and it is doubted if this need for interaction is taken into account in this SE approach. The V&V process half-heartedly relates to stakeholder management (SM) while they seem to be a good fit. It is expected that a successful performance of SM can fill this need for interaction in the complex environment of LIP’s. Therefore, this research sought an answer to the question: How can stakeholder management help to improve the verification and validation of the stakeholders’ requirements during the design phase of large infrastructure projects in the Netherlands? Through a literature study into SM, an evaluation tool is formulated consisting of four core values. These values are: setting goals together, assessing stakeholders, involving stakeholders in the decision-making, and continuously interacting with stakeholders. A case-study approach is used to allow a deeper understanding of the application of SM in relation to the V&V process during the design phase in practice. Through semi-structured interviews, based on the evaluation tool, the perspectives of contractors, clients, and stakeholders on SM in relation to the V&V process were investigated. Conclusively, the findings from the three cases were compared based on different themes to gain an understanding of the role SM plays in relation to the V&V process. Setting goals together, appears to be truly important in relation to the V&V process. Respondents believe that by setting goals together, parties involved become more aware of the underlying interests and concerns behind the requirements of the project and thus get a better picture of the purpose of the requirements. Consequently, it brings parties closer together from the start. Furthermore, continuously interacting with stakeholders during the process in an open way is important as this creates support among stakeholders. Through this, the contractor must discuss the progress of the design by reflecting on the overall picture and not only on the problems that arise. The stakeholders, but the client as well, find it very meaningful to be thoroughly informed about the reasoning behind the design choices of the contractor. This applies to involving stakeholders in the decision-making as well. The current way in which the stakeholders and the client actually participate in making decisions seems sufficient on condition that stakeholders and client are sufficiently informed about the motives of the contractor. In the context of the studied cases, assessing stakeholders does not appear to be important in the V&V process of the design phase. This research has not identified a clear correlation between the performance of the V&V process and a contractor or a client who is carrying out the SM related to the V&V process, the degree of collaboration seems much more important. Both the contractor and the client have substantial resources that are required to coordinate the design with the stakeholders and they have a common interest in monitoring the contract. Therefore, it is the interest of both of them to enter into good collaboration in managing the stakeholders in relation to the V&V process. The ambiguity of the V&V process is recognized in practice as well, where the contractor and client struggle to find a more SE-driven approach or a more SM-driven approach. The context in which the process takes place determines which approach is more effective. There are several directions for further research. First of all, this research uses an evaluation tool based on research into SM focusing on LIP’s in general. Therefore, this research can be seen as an exploratory study into SM specifically aimed at the V&V process. It is recommended to conduct follow-up research into further testing and specifying the evaluation tool. Furthermore, this research shows that there is a tension in the V&V process regarding monitoring the contract. Further research into contract management in relation to the V&V process is recommended as well. Based on the evaluation tool, this research has made recommendations for determining an SM strategy in relation to the V&V process. Since every V&V process takes place in a different context, no unambiguous advice can be given. However, this research has shown that setting goals together and continuously interacting with stakeholders are both very important for the performance of the V&V process, regardless of the conditions of the process.