Effective project management requires detailed stakeholder identification to be performed. While the project manager needs to be the expert in project management, they rely on certain stakeholders to serve as experts in what needs to be done and how it should be accomplished. Stakeholders are important throughout the lifecycle of the project. Once identified, you need a plan to manage their expectations and their level of engagement and influence.

In a previous post, we covered the essential element, create a project charter. A charter should identify key project stakeholders, but this is only on the high level, so let’s dive into what it takes to effectively identify all your stakeholders.

Identifying Project Stakeholders

  1. Who Are Stakeholders?
  2. Types of Stakeholders
  3. How to Work with Stakeholders Successfully
  4. Stakeholder Engagement Skills

Who Are Stakeholders?

Stakeholders are people and organizations who:

  • Are involved in or impacted by the project or product
  • Can positively or negatively impact the project or product

It is important to identify anyone who can affect, or be affected by, the project or the product. Anyone who has any interest in the project, including those who might be opposed to the project or portions of it, are also stakeholders. To help you identify more people, ask them: “Who do you think are the stakeholders?” You don’t want to miss any.

Also, when identifying individuals and teams, the project manager must elicit, document, and evaluate stakeholders’ product, project, and project management requirements and expectations. These must be evaluated against the charter and project management plan to make sure the project stays within scope, builds the needed solution, and delivers to the business need.

Types of Stakeholders

There are several types of stakeholders.  The most common are internal or external stakeholders.

Internal stakeholders work within an organization. They include the project manager and team, customer, and sponsor.  It can also include individuals and groups you may not have considered such as board members and investors, other project managers or the Project Management Office.

External stakeholders work outside the organization but still have impact or interest in a project. These can include regulators, consultants, sellers, end users, customers, partners, competitors, shareholders, and other financial institutions.

Stakeholders may be actively involved in the project work or may fulfill or may fill an advisory role.

How to Work with Stakeholders Successfully

Successful project managers identify and properly involve key groups and individuals in the project planning process, and continually engage those stakeholders throughout the project as well.

Good project managers also understand their stakeholders’ requirements, expectations, influence, and impact, and use that analysis and planning to engage them throughout the project and in balance with project constraints. Since stakeholders play an important role in all aspects of projects, here are some ways you can involve them:

  1. Identify all stakeholders: Identify all of them as early as possible. Discovering them later in the process will likely request changes which can impact your project.
  2. Determine their requirements and expectations: We have already discussed the need to gather requirements but is essential to obtain all requirements before work begins. Expectations are more ambiguous than requirements. Expectations can include what stakeholder thinks will happen to them, their department, or the organization because of the project.
  3. Determine their interest: What is each stakeholder’s level of interest in the project. This information will help you structure the work, roles, and responsibilities to maximize engagement.
  4. Understand their level of influence and authority: A stakeholder’s influence and authority can affect the work and outcome of the project. It is important to gather and analyze this information you can leverage it to the benefit of the project.
  5. Plan to engage and communicate with stakeholders: Planning is a key to project management. You’ll want to create a plan to engage and keep stakeholder involved in the project. You will also want to plan your communication to get them to convey their thoughts and concerns to help prevent problems.

Stakeholder Engagement Skills

Balancing the science and art of project management requires that project managers know how to collaborate with key individuals and groups and meet their expectations. Developing these skills is vital successfully delivering projects.

Want to learn more about working with stakeholders? Consider RMC’s Project Communication and Stakeholder Engagement eLearning course.  This course teaches you how to identify stakeholders, discover their expectations and requirements, and how to propose modifications.

If you want to enhance your project management knowledge, RMC has synthesized our project management expertise into the essential elements of Project Fundamentals.  Learn new concepts with thoughtful exercises and content in our Project Management 2-day instructor-led virtual class. Our PM Crash eLearning course allows you to learn the fundamentals of project management any time, anywhere.

RMC also offers a FREE webinar on Stakeholder Engagement Analysis Tools that discuss how to use the variety of tools that can help with stakeholder engagement.




Cate Curry
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