How to Identify Project Stakeholders

For a project to be considered successful, it must meet or exceed the primary objective—satisfy the stakeholders. Stakeholders are those individuals, groups, or organizations with a vested interest in the execution or output of the project.

A project may have internal stakeholders such as:

  1. Project managers
  2. Sponsors
  3. Project team
  4. Project Management Office
  5. Functional managers
  6. Other departments
  7. End users

There may also be external stakeholders, including:

  1. Customers
  2. Interest groups
  3. Regulators or government agencies
  4. Communities
  5. Neighboring businesses
  6. Suppliers
  7. Unions

Obviously, not all stakeholders are created equal. Some have more influence than others and some have more interest than others. Sometimes, stakeholders have conflicting objectives or interests in the project. Think about a project with an objective of relocating a factory from one city to another and consider some of the stakeholders:

  1. The government agencies and communities in both locations will be stakeholders, but will have competing interests.
  2. Some stakeholders will be very positive about the project, others quite negative.
  3. Some stakeholders may have a lot of influence and can create obstacles or clear them depending on their interests.
  4. Other stakeholders may have a lot of interest or may be greatly impacted, but have little ability to affect the project process.

It is important that the project manager take time to identify all stakeholders associated with the project. For each stakeholder or stakeholder group, the project manager will want to perform some level of analysis to determine:

  1. Stakeholder interest – to what degree are they affected.
  2. Stakeholder influence – to what degree can they affect the project.
  3. Stakeholder attitude – positive, negative, or neutral.

Once this information is known and documented (typically in a stakeholder register), the project manager can develop a plan for communicating with each stakeholder. The intent of this communication will be to minimize any negative influences to the project, while maximizing positive influences.

There are several resources a project manager may consult to help identify stakeholders:

  1. Project charter
  2. Statement of work
  3. Contracts
  4. Lessons learned (from similar projects)
  5. Stakeholder registers from previous projects
  6. Organization charts
  7. Subject matter experts
  8. Government or industry standards
  9. Other stakeholders (sponsor, project team members, etc.)

It is important to remember that this process is not just conducted once at the beginning of the project. Stakeholders, as well as their attitudes, influence, and interests, can change throughout the project life cycle. It will be important to review the stakeholder information on a regular basis. At a minimum, the stakeholder register should be reviewed at the beginning of each phase of the project.

Author: James Muller

Jim Muller has been working as a Project/Program Manager for over 20 years. He has managed projects for IT/IT as well as on the business side. Projects ranged from $100 million IS development program, mergers and acquisitions, the launch of business products, and physical relocations of business units. Jim has also worked on the development of internal PM Methodologies, implemented a Project Management Office, and continually provided coaching and mentoring for project management staff. Jim has provided project management training for companies as well as teaching at the university level.

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