Wdrożenie i ocena wybranego narzędzia CRM do zarządzania relacjami z interesariuszami w projekcie innowacyjnym
AGH University, Faculty of Management, Ul. Gramatyka 10, 30-067 Kraków, Poland
Artykuł przedstawia założenia procesu wdrażania oprogramowania HubSpotCRM w wybranym projekcie innowacyjnym, realizowanym przez studencką organizację non-profit, jako podstawy zarządzania relacjami z interesariuszami tego projektu. Celem artykułu jest ocena wpływu wdrożonego oprogramowania na zarządzanie relacjami z interesariuszami projektu, ze szczególnym uwzględnieniem komunikacji z wewnętrznymi i zewnętrznymi interesariuszami. Motywacją do wprowadzenia koncepcji zarządzania relacjami z interesariuszami w badanej organizacji była rosnąca liczba studentów zaangażowanych w realizację projektu, rosnące potrzeby finansowe, a w konsekwencji zwiększająca się grupa interesariuszy wspierających innowacyjny projekt. Wpłynęło to na potrzebę wprowadzenia koncepcji zarządzania relacjami z interesariuszami projektu oraz większej operacjonalizacji działań organizacji studenckiej. Zdecydowano się na oprogramowanie HubSpotCRM ze względu na jego funkcjonalności i dostępność dla organizacji non-profit. W artykule przedstawiono studium przypadku Innowacyjnego Projektu Studenckiego oraz wyniki badań sondażowych wśród członków projektu, które pozwoliły na dokonanie oceny komunikacji wewnętrznej oraz przepływu informacji pomiędzy członkami projektu a głównymi interesariuszami po wdrożeniu systemu CRM.
Przyjęto, że ocena komunikacji z perspektywy uczestników projektu będzie odpowiednią miarą korzyści z wdrożonego rozwiązania, gdyż na początkowym etapie trudno o ocenę innych wymiarów współpracy z interesariuszami. Wśród głównych korzyści wskazano na profesjonalizację działań i ujednolicenie praktyk zarządzania w całym projekcie, przejrzystą klasyfikację interesariuszy, poprawę przepływu informacji wewnątrz projektu i komunikacji ze sponsorami. Wykazano, że również organizacje studenckie mogą wprowadzać rozwiązania dedykowane dla przedsiębiorstw i wdrażać koncepcję zarządzania relacjami z interesariuszami, aby zwiększać skuteczność pozyskiwania
wsparcia i rozwijać projekty innowacyjne.
MINIB, 2023, Vol. 49, Issue 3
Opublikowano 15 września 2023
Wdrożenie i ocena wybranego narzędzia CRM do zarządzania relacjami z interesariuszami w projekcie innowacyjnym
The large and growing number of team members, the multiplicity of funding sources and the ever-increasing number of team members cause difficulties in running the project effectively and contribute to conflicts of interest and other organisational obstacles. Introducing the idea of building and managing stakeholder relations will improve the quality-of-service delivery, which will result in an increase in the level of reputation and trust, as key elements for the development of the organisation.
In response to the shortcomings of earlier theories of measuring the performance of business organisations measuring them in strictly financial terms, since the end of the last century, there has been a significant increase in the popularity of a new conceptual model of the company proposed by Freeman-the so-called stakeholder model (Freeman, 1984).
This model considers the organisation’s environment and legitimises new forms of activities in the organisation with an emphasis on its impact on the business environment (Wójcik-Karpacz, 2018).
Initially, 'stakeholders’ were defined as 'a key group without whose support an organisation could not last’ (Freeman & Mcvea, 2001, s. 31).
Since the 1970s, there has been a gradual development of functional concepts in stakeholders’ theory and related topics. A watershed moment can be considered 1984 when Freeman presented a definition of
a stakeholder as 'any person or group that can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organisation’s objectives’ (Freeman, 1984, s. 46). In the 1990s, Starik and colleagues suggested a change defining a stakeholder as 'a person who has influence on the organization’s achievement of its intended goals or a person who will be affected by the organization’s achievement of those goals’ (Baah et al., 2022 za: Clarkson, Starik, Cochran i Jones). The change, although minor, focused on defining the causality and subjectivity of the stakeholder. The authors suggested the importance of the two-way relationship between the organisation and the stakeholders. Bryson (1995, s. 27) proposed a more comprehensive definition: 'any person, group, or organization that can place a claim on an organization’s attention, resources, or output or is affected by that output’.
Stakeholder theory formulated in the last century is now widely applied to the strategic management of an organisation. The modern approach to management requires consideration of multiple viewpoints, and companies increasingly need to be guided not only by strictly business objectives but also consider social and environmental expectations to build reputation and effective relationships (Prymon-Ryś, 2015; Tait, 2020; Zieliński, 2019). It is the right relationships that are becoming a key element in management.
The study aims to evaluate the impact of the implemented software on the project’s stakeholder relationship management, with particular emphasis on communicating with internal and external stakeholders. The motivation for the introduction of the concept of stakeholder relationship management in the researched organisation was the increasing number of students involved in the project, increasing financial needs and, consequently, the increasing number of stakeholders supporting the innovative project.
Overview of the CRM Solutions
Customer relationship management (CRM) as a business strategy, a certain model of approach to business and relationship management, is based on a holistic approach to the various processes and influences surrounding the organisation (Payne, 2012; Peppers & Rogers, 2016). Contemporary CRM solutions dedicated to enterprises are not limited to customer relations but apply to a broader range of other stakeholders as well (Hancock, 2022; Nicuta et al., 2018). The fullness of activities that make up the use of CRM in an organisation consists of several smaller processes and tools (Kozioł et al., 2019; Sowa & Filutowicz, 2011).
Considering CRM from the perspective of an information system, it can be defined as 'an interface that connects an organisation with its customers, stakeholders and cooperators’ (Olszak et al., 2015, s. 179). The literature distinguishes the division of CRM systems into three basic, cooperative forms (subsystems): operational, analytical and interactional (communication). Some researchers also include strategic CRM, which is designed to parameterise the CRM system and integrate it into the organisation’s operations (Olszak et al., 2015; Waśkowski, 2015). Among the largest CRM solutions providers are Salesforce, SAP, Oracle and Adobe (Business Wire, 2021). Providers of these services offer advanced IT solutions, customisable to business organisations, to support comprehensive stakeholder relationship management. At the other end fall low-cost or free solutions that small businesses or non-profit organisations are eager to use.
HubSpot CRM (2022) is a system used primarily in marketing and sales. In its free version, it allows ongoing email correspondence, contracting from the platform level and keeping a detailed description and value of the contract. Each transaction can be assigned to a separate category selected by the user. Advanced analytical tools are also available within the HubSpot CRM platform. Access to the portal is via a web browser. In addition, the software developer provides web and mobile application. An additional advantage of the program is an email plug-in allowing tracking of recipient activity (confirmation of reading).
A cheap and affordable alternative to customised CRM software is also a creation of an own CRM panel through spreadsheets such as MS Excel. The main disadvantages are a low level of security and control over the prepared sheet and poor process automation capabilities.
Specifics of Innovative Projects
To present the concept of stakeholders in a project, it is necessary to first define the term project. In the PMBOK standard, a project is characterised as 'a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. The temporary nature of projects indicates the beginning and end of project work or a phase of project work. Projects can occur independently or be part of a program or portfolio’ (PMBOK, 2021, s. 4). Similar terms can also be found in other sources: 'A project is work done by an organization on a one-off basis to achieve a unique result’ (Horine, 2019, s. 8), which means that the work has a definite beginning and a definite end, and the result of the work is different in one or more ways from anything the organisation has produced before. Therefore, a project can be characterised as certain time-defined activities that result in a product or service that is distinguished by a certain uniqueness. Taking this as a basis for definition, it can be assumed that an innovative project should be called a venture that aims to create a concept, a completely new product or an improved product, process, technology or method of operation (Pietruszyńska & Woźniak, 2021).
The management of an innovation project should be viewed as activities of an innovative nature and an unconventional approach, distinguished by a higher degree of difficulty and an increased risk of achieving the project’s goals and products. In addition, according to the subjective approach of innovation project management, in which the human factor is used as a resource and recipient of innovation in parallel, people should be viewed through the prism of the competencies they represent, to create and then use innovation (Bal-Woźniak, 2020).
In the case of innovation projects, the undeniably important variables are time, cost and scope of activities, also known as the 'project constraint triangle’, which reflects the level of quality of the activities performed and the results obtained (Knosala & Deptuła, 2018).
It should be noted that management of innovative projects differs not only in form but also in content from 'casual’ projects. This is determined by the nature and specificity of these projects, which are carried out in circumstances with a higher level of risk and uncertainty (Richman, 2011; Trocki et al., 2012). At the same time, it should be remembered that these projects are characterised by a very dynamic course, which makes it difficult to establish a rigidly defined plan of action or to plan resources (Nita, 2016).
Stakeholder theory in project management is based on the definition by Freeman (Freeman & Mcvea, 2001). Project stakeholders, according to this concept, are individuals, groups of people and institutions that can positively or negatively affect the course and results of the project and can be affected by it (positively or negatively). They 'bear some risk as a result of a capital, human or financial investment in the company, or are subject to risk through the company’s actions’ (Baah et al., 2022).
Knowledge of project stakeholders, their interests, how they can be articulated and their ability to influence the project, as well as the ability to create relationships with these entities conducive to the effective and efficient implementation of project activities, are unquestionably important for effective project management (Danielak, 2018; Pisz & Łapuńka, 2017; Trocki et al., 2012). Stakeholder theory has become one of the cornerstones of modern management methodologies, both in the agile and cascading ways (Grucza, 2019). According to the Prince 2 methodology, project stakeholders are individuals, groups and organisations that influence; are influenced by; or believe that they are affected by a project (Łubiarz, 2019). According to the PMBOK, project stakeholders are individuals, groups or organisations that are influenced or affected by the project, for example, customers, employees, cooperators, suppliers, business environment institutions, competitors, government and social institutions (PMBOK, 2021). Agile methodologies use more general definitions of stakeholders as 'individuals or groups or organisations that can influence the actions taken by an individual or be influenced by the decisions made’ (Łubiarz, 2019).
Using HubSpot CRM
in Stakeholder Relationship Management
of the Innovative Student Project: Case Study
The Innovative Students Project (IS Project), described in this article, is a non-profit student organisation that creates advanced technological solutions and innovative prototypes of vehicles, which take part in student international competitions. It is one of the largest technical students’ organisations in Poland, whose flagship project is the academic racing team. This student project was founded in 2012 by a group of automotive enthusiasts. Currently, the project engages „120 students from all University faculties. The main area of interest is to design and construct from scratch a fully operational and compliant vehicles, which then compete in international engineering contests. The peculiarities of the operation of student organisations require constant support from the university authorities. At the same time, this innovative project depends on the financial support of many sponsors.
The most common solution for managing relations with sponsors and other stakeholders used by student organisations was spreadsheets or memos in various forms. Internal communication relied mainly on chats through social media channels, while contacts with sponsors were more direct, including phone and face-to-face meetings. Implementing a full CRM software available to all members of the project team members was a pioneering solution that offered unprecedented opportunities, as well as many management challenges.
Identifying and classifying stakeholders in the project was the basis and key stage for introducing the stakeholder relationship management concept (Bourne & Walker, 2008; Wood et al., 2021).
A. Identification of stakeholders
The first step was to identify and classify all interest groups related to the team, which made possible to plan the next steps and strategic actions towards the team’s stakeholders. During this stage, 34 stakeholder categories were identified that were either individual stakeholders or groups of interest like sponsors, team members or academic organisations. Some of the groups were quite heterogeneous and numerous; for example, in the 'Sponsors group’, 82 companies with different needs and requirements, that provided unique forms of support, were distinguished. Such diversity of stakeholders required the introduction of specific ways of clustering.
B. Project stakeholders’ classification
For the purpose of further analysis, the sponsor groups were divided into three levels of importance: silver, gold and platinum corresponding to the sponsors’ strength of influence on the team, as well as the value and form of support. The other project stakeholders were also classified according to various criteria. The complexity of the project’s form of activity revealed particularly interesting connections when dividing into internal and external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders certainly included team members and the project mentor.
Due to the lack of legal personality of the project team, the university is the only entity that can represent the IS Project. Therefore, internal stakeholders also include the university authorities and the faculty administration. The administrative units were treated as internal stakeholders for the team, just like the accounting, legal and human resources departments are treated in any business entity (Mirońska, 2016). After brainstorming session and in-depth considerations regarding stakeholders’ interest in the project outcomes and their influence, eight stakeholder groups were classified: three key stakeholders (project team members, project mentor and platinum sponsors). Other significant stakeholders include the student affairs department, two faculty administration offices, gold and silver sponsors and the Rector of the University.
C. Mapping the project stakeholders
Based on the theoretical background (Tarnawska, 2021; Zieliński, 2021) and all the activities done in the previous identification and classification stages, a stakeholder matrix was prepared considering the stakeholder’s power of influence and its engagement in the IS Project activities. Using the stakeholders map, it was easier to decide which stakeholders required direct contact and personal involvement from the project leaders and to define a communication strategy towards each stakeholder group.
D. Implementation of HubSpot CRM system
The first step in implementing a CRM system for the IS Project was to conduct a pre-implementation analysis, which identified the requirements that the system must meet, as well as functions it must perform. After a series of meetings with team members, it was determined that the necessary features were the ability to collect all stakeholder data in one place with easy sorting, searching and classification depending on the selected attributes. An additional feature was the ability to record email conversations and keep notes for other users. The last necessary parameter was the absence of user fees for each of the approximately 100 users. After analysing the solutions available on the market, it was decided that the HubSpot CRM system meets all the requirements and offers several additional capabilities.
The procedure for introducing the software to the IS Project included: a) system configuration, b) importing sponsors and other stakeholders’ data, c) HubSpot Sales plugin for Outlook email inbox, d) installation of the HubSpot app for iOS and Android that allows quickly and easily check the status of a given relation. The HubSpot CRM system in the IS Project was primarily used to organise and maintain relations with most of the team’s stakeholders. Since the tool is tailored to commercial applications, currently the system’s full functionalities apply to sponsorship relations. For other stakeholders, HubSpot acts as an easy-to-use database and supports regular meetings. For the majority of team members, MS Planner tool seems to be more convenient.
Evaluation of the Usefulness of HubSpot CRM
for the Stakeholder Relationship Management
in the Innovative Student Project
To evaluate the influence of the introduced CRM software over the communication with internal and external stakeholders and to verify the usefulness of HubSpot CRM for the project team members, the following survey was conducted.
A. Research Methodology
The present study was descriptive in nature. Its main objective was to determine the impact of implemented HubSpot CRM software on internal and external communication with key stakeholders for the IS Project. The subject of the research was the information flow between team members and project key stakeholders. It was assumed that the perceived by 'regular’ team members level of facilitation of the projectstakeholders communication may be an adequate measure of the CRM tool’s usefulness (Prymon-Ryś & Kasperska, 2018).
In the research, an unstructured interview with a project mentor was conducted, followed by an Internet survey. The measurement tool was a questionnaire originally developed for this study. Primary data were collected in June–July 2022. The survey questionnaire was divided into sections:
- general data concerning the respondents,
- an assessment of communication within the project,
- an assessment of the impact of the new CRM software on internal communication,
- an assessment of the impact of the implemented software on communication with stakeholders.
B. Sample Structure
In the survey, 50 team members took part, which constitutes „42% of all students involved in the IS Project (see Table 1).
The research sample was dominated by men (82%), which is justified by the fact that male students are most often involved in the IS Project activities. The most numerous groups in the research sample were students between 21 years and 24 years (78%). Senior team members constituted the most numerous groups in the sample (36%), followed by juniors (30%).
C. Research outcomes
According to the team mentor, the implementation of the HubSpot CRM system in the project for the purposes of stakeholder relationship management made possible to significantly professionalise the team’s activities and harmonise management practices throughout the team. Establishing a consistent communication system ensured consistency in relationship management and ensured full transparency in this regard. Respondents indicated preferred forms of internal communication within the project, as well as communication with external stakeholders (see Table 2).
It can be noted that the peculiarity of the relationship between the members of the project, mainly young adults from the student group, influences the preference for remote communication via MS Teams or chat. Maintaining relationships with sponsors and other stakeholders requires more formal contacts, hence the great importance of email communication and the greater role of paper correspondence. For both internal and external stakeholders, there was room for improvement in emailing, which HubSpot CRM software could have facilitated.
The respondents were asked to evaluate whether they had easy access to all necessary information after introduction of a new CRM system. The respondents were quite positive about that: 52% strongly agreed and 48% agreed that currently, it is simple to find all relevant information. Project members were also asked whether they knew where to find the information needed to maintain stakeholder relations. Similarly, only very positive answers (42%) and positive answers (58%) were obtained. There were no negative or neutral responses in this section, which confirms that everyone positively evaluated the level of achievement of CRM system implementation goals.
According to the team members, HubSpot CRM had facilitated information flow within the project: 88% respondents were convinced that currently, the information flow can be graded as good or very good, and the remaining 12% were neutral.
After introducing HubSpot CRM to the project, internal communication was evaluated as good (68%) or very good (20%), and 12% of respondents were neutral about the change. No negative grades were obtained.
The similar outcomes concerned the improvement of the communication with external stakeholders after introducing the CRM software: Respondents positively or very positively evaluated this communication (80% of indications), with no negative responses.
It should be noted that at the initial stage of implementing the concept of stakeholder relationship management, it is difficult to assess the longterm impact of the implemented changes and to use other measures for evaluating stakeholder cooperation. However, it seems that the positive attitude of project members towards the implemented solutions and the perceived improvements in communication are a rationale for continuing the professional approach in managing stakeholder relations in this student organisation.
Benefits of the Implementation of CRM Software
for Stakeholder Relationship Management
in the IS Project
Based on the analysis, it was possible to establish a methodical concept of stakeholders’ management in project. Apart from the key stakeholders (team members, the project mentor and platinum sponsors), four major stakeholder groups have been identified, with recommended ways of managing the relationship:
1. stakeholders with the highest influence and interest (golden sponsors, former members of the project, the student council, the Center for Student Affairs): the recommended strategy for this group of stakeholders is full involvement and close cooperation implemented through broad communication and reporting activities accompanied by regular direct and online meetings, supplemented by additional elements that allow for regular, open cooperation and communication;
2. influential stakeholders with low interest in the project (university authorities, organisers of student contests): recommended actions are to keep this group satisfied and involved, by organising periodic meetings to summarise current activities, inviting them to the most important ceremonies related to the project and giving small commemorative gifts;
3. stakeholders with high interest and varying levels of influence (low- and medium-value sponsors, competitive project teams, selected student organisations and social media fans) who should be kept informed through reports, social media communication or newsletters, periodic organisation of meetings;
4. stakeholders with low influence and interest in the project, as to whom a least-effort approach is adequate, requiring only monitoring (e.g., sponsors providing discounts in exchange for logo placement on the website, other student organisations, other university students, families of team members and other university institutions). Suggested actions toward this group could include offering holiday wishes in the form of an email, social media post or printed card.
The implementation of a CRM system for stakeholder relationship management in the IS Project allowed for a significant professionalisation of the team’s activities and unification of management practices across the team. The creation of a consistent system for conducting contacts ensured continuity in relationship management and guaranteed full transparency in this regard. Thanks to the use of a clear stakeholder classification with a detailed description of the proposed benefits and values of support, it was possible to implement a comprehensive offer to new sponsors, as well as to present a uniform price list for services. The CRM system significantly facilitated communication within the team and reduced the time to obtain information about individual stakeholders. A consistent stakeholder knowledge base allowed managers to plan activities more efficiently and effectively and to transfer knowledge more accurately to new circle members. Both the project mentor and regular team members were unanimous about that.
Managing stakeholder relations using a CRM system in any organisation is not a process that ends with the implementation of the system. Also, in the case of the IS Project team, the future brings further challenges in this regard. First and foremost, due to the constant replacement of members carried out in successive recruitments, it is necessary to provide regular and substantive training in the use of the CRM system and stakeholder relationship management. An equally important issue is to systematically raise awareness of the capabilities of the CRM system among the team members, especially in smaller sub-teams, which do not use the system daily. Cyclically renewing the stakeholder analysis and configuration of the CRM system is an activity needed not only because of the constant replacement of the project members but also because of the replacement of personnel at the university and among other stakeholders. Other external factors such as the political situation, the economic situation (e.g., a financial crisis or the need to account for inflation in support values) or other unforeseen issues (e.g., a pandemic) may also influence stakeholders’ attitudes. All of these can affect the approach to managing relationships with individual and group stakeholders.
This study sought to identify the benefits of introducing CRM software to facilitate stakeholder relationship management in the innovative student project. Data upon which the assessment was carried out come from the case study of a selected student organisation, direct interview and internet survey. As a result of the data analysis process, several benefits for this non-commercial organisation were identified. The HubSpot CRM system enabled the team’s activities to be significantly professionalised and management practices to be unified throughout the team. It was feasible to implement a full offer to new sponsors and provide a standard pricing list for services by using a clear stakeholder classification with a detailed description of the intended advantages and values of support.
The CRM system considerably enhanced team communication and reduced the time required to collect information about individual stakeholders. A consistent stakeholder knowledge base enabled managers to organise operations more efficiently and effectively, as well as convey information to new circle members more correctly. That was agreed upon by both the project mentor and the regular team members.
As an empirical contribution to the stakeholder theory, the article indicates a set of steps that should be undertaken to transform the lowformal, and often chaotic, contacts with sponsors in a non-profit organisation into professionally managed stakeholder relationships, supported by an easy-to-use and student-accessible tool. The benefits of implementing this CRM solution are recognised not only by the team leaders and the project mentor but also by the regular members of the student organisation. This poses obviously further challenges for the student organisation regarding training of members or ongoing updating of data in the system. However, these are not challenges that a rapidly growing innovative project cannot meet.
The goal was also to demonstrate that non-profit student organisations can successfully use tools designed for commercial organisations, conduct professional stakeholder analysis and implement the concept of stakeholder relationship management.
This study provides a basis for further investigations involving stakeholder management in NGOs, especially involved in innovative projects. Even though based on evidence from one student organisation, the study reveals the challenges faced by those managing non-profit organisations, including university-based ones. Students and university practitioners should be encouraged to seek managerial tools, to deal with stakeholders considering their power to influence the organisation, as well as their interest in ongoing innovation and research projects.
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Ewa Prymon-Ryś — assistant professor, researcher and academic teacher at AGH University in Krakow at the Faculty of Management. She is an author of more than 70 scientific publications and co-author of 2 books on Marketing Research, B2B Markets, NGOs and Stakeholders Relationship Management. Passionate about expanding knowledge to drive growth, innovation and needed improvements in modern supply chains, green marketing and the circular economy.