Mythics Blog

Who Are Your Project Stakeholders?

Posted on June 24, 2013 by Grace Okwumabua

Tags: Project Management, Mythics Consulting

The term “stakeholder” always is featured prominently in any discussion of project management. You know you are supposed to:

  • Get their “buy in” so you are supported in completing a successful project;
  • Understand their requirements and expectations;
  • Consult with them during the concept/design/planning to ensure you aim for the right goals; 
  • Communicate with them on a regular basis throughout the project;
  • Demonstrate value to them by highlighting how the project benefits them specifically;
  • Ensure their satisfaction with the project outcome (to whatever extent possible).

But what if you really aren’t sure who your stakeholders are? If you don’t figure this out before going into a project, you may get blindsided by lack of cooperation, bottlenecks preventing timely project completion, or even complete failure.

Start By Asking the Right Questions

In general terms, a stakeholder is anyone who is interested in, affected by, or wielding influence in relation to your project. That description could include a LOT of different people! The following questions may help you more clearly identify individuals and groups who might be stakeholders.

  • Who instigated or requested this project?
  • Who is supplying funding for this project?
  • Who will provide supplemental project funding, if needed?
  • Who will lose money or other resources if the project is not completed on time – or at all?
  • Who will profit in the marketplace from successful project completion?
  • Who will be responsible for ensuring quality in this project?
  • Who will be responsible for ensuring compliance and risk management in this project?
  • Which organizations or entities are providing physical supplies for this project?
  • Who is providing technological and/or software resources for this project?
  • Who is providing knowledge resources or special expertise for this project?
  • Who is supplying labor resources for this project?
  • Who is supplying facilities or physical space for any aspect of this project?
  • Who will be informally championing this project “from the sidelines” as needed without being considered a member of the project team?
  • Who will be held responsible if project objectives are not met?
  • Who has the authority to “pull the plug” on the project?
  • Who has the practical ability to stop the project through action or inaction?

There will likely be multiple answers to each question – and these answers may lead you to more questions. That’s OK. Just make your list as broad as possible and you can condense it later.

Examples of Project Stakeholders

Just in case you missed a few stakeholders, here are some examples:

  • Customer (person or organization); 
  • Individual(s) to whom the customer reports;
  • End user (person or groups);
  • Sponsor (internal or external);
  • Upper management and executives (internal);
  • Human resources;
  • Employees outside the project team;
  • Project manager (you can be your own stakeholder!);
  • Program manager;
  • Resource managers (anyone who can give or withhold resources critical to the project);
  • Development team;
  • Testing team;
  • Procurement (purchasing);
  • Line managers (production);
  • Licensing entities;
  • Outside vendors or suppliers;
  • Third party collaborators including subcontracting firms, independent contractors;
  • Government entities (local, state, federal).

Where Do You Go from Here?

At the end of this exercise, you may have quite a long list. This may feel a little overwhelming. You may find it helpful to further categorize your stakeholders by their relative importance for your project’s outcome. Not all stakeholders have the same amount of influence over or interest in your project. You’ll need to take a pragmatic view of which stakeholders are most relevant. As you review your list of stakeholders, note beside each one:

  • The actions they could take to benefit the project;
  • The actions they might take (or fail to take) that could sabotage it;
  • What they stand to gain (or lose) from a successful outcome;
  • A “risk” rating based on how likely it is that they will have a substantial impact on your project

This information will help you determine how to invest your time in currying favor with each stakeholder group. It can also serve as a starting point for a more in-depth stakeholder analysis.

Increasing the chances of project success lies within the awareness of and communication to your project stakeholders. Therefore, asking yourself the right questions when identifying these stakeholders will help you achieve collaboration, support, and decreased complexity as your project progresses.

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