Project stakeholders are those:
- whose interests may be affected, for good or bad, by a project
- who have the ability or power to directly influence a project and its outcomes, for good or bad.
Types of project stakeholders
Project stakeholders may be individuals, organisations (or subgroups within organisations), community groups, even the public at large. Project stakeholder may be internal or external:
- Internal stakeholders include the project team, the Project Board or Steering Committee, the organisation’s management and other employees, line managers, and an internal client, among others.
- External stakeholders might include an external client, end-users, professional associations, government agencies, industry trade groups, investors, suppliers and contractors, consultants, unions, lobby groups and the media.
Why are project stakeholders important when scoping a project?
Stakeholders are critical to a project’s success. They can effectively ‘make or break’ it.
Many project stakeholders operate at senior levels and wield significant influence—for example, an influential project sponsor with decision-making power to fund and resource a project. It would be wrong, however, to assume that junior stakeholders with seeming little authority are not potentially powerful. A group of unhappy end-users can sabotage a project as surely as a body withholding funding. Similarly, a group of happy end-users can make a project a resounding success.
Effective project management means keeping all key stakeholders ‘on side’—managing any undue influence on the one hand, while ensuring engagement on the other—while continuing to ensure the project’s cost, time, quality and scope issues are controlled.
The first step — identify project stakeholders
All project stakeholders need to be identified as early as possible, while the scope of the project is being defined. This list needs to be comprehensive and carefully compiled. A stakeholder who is accidentally overlooked or ignored can pose real difficulties for a project, leading to potential conflict, project delays, fines and legal action, even project termination.
It is unlikely that one person (the Project Manager) will be able to identify all stakeholders alone. The task may require input from the project team and others via techniques such as brainstorming.
The next step — analyse project stakeholders
Once all stakeholders are identified, they need to be analysed. This involves looking specifically at their importance to the project, their likely degree of influence, their individual requirements and expectations, the role planned role for them on the project, and their communication needs. Deciding on such matters often requires the judgement of senior management, and/or the input of technical experts.
Relevant information identified through this analysis is classified and documented in a stakeholder register.
Managing project stakeholders
Each stakeholder is likely to have different needs for information and feedback, involvement and consultation as well as different expectations about the project and their role in it. These stakeholders can be rated, on the basis of this information, from those which (or who) are most important to the project through to those likely to have the least impact on, or interest in, the project.
To effectively manage all identified project stakeholders (maximising stakeholder support, and minimising negative outcomes) a stakeholder management strategy should be developed as early as possible when scoping the project.
This web link provides more information on analysing project stakeholders: