How to Identify Project Stakeholders

Project and program managers need to identify all stakeholders connected with the program and on the supporting projects. William Congreve may have said, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” but you need to remember, “Hell hath no fury like a stakeholder scorned.”

Realize also that a stakeholder isn’t always a person. Often an organization has to be represented, in which case the organization as a whole is the stakeholder. But even when the stakeholder is more than one person, you must work to obtain single-point accountability for each stakeholding organization. Additionally, the accountable person should have the power (or be delegated the power) to make decisions in his or her stakeholder role. In this regard, smart leaders will use their influence to select stakeholder representatives that are easy to work with.

To comprehensively identify stakeholders, use the following guidelines:

  • Follow the money! Whoever is paying is definitely a stakeholder. Also, if the program produces savings or additional costs for an organization, then the organization is also a stakeholder.
  • Follow the resources. Every entity that provides resources, whether internal or external, labor or facilities, and equipment, is a stakeholder. Line managers and functional managers providing resources are stakeholders.
  • Follow the deliverables. Whoever is the recipient of the product or service the program is providing is a stakeholder.
  • Follow the signatures. The individual who signs off on completion of the final product or service (or completed phases of the product or service) is a stakeholder. Note: This may or may not be the recipient referred to in the previous bullet. Often there may be more recipients than signatories.
  • Examine other programs’ stakeholder lists. Include active programs and completed projects.
  • Review the organizational chart to assess which parts of the organization may be stakeholders.
  • Ask team members, customers, and any other confirmed stakeholder to help you identify additional stakeholders.
  • Look for the “Unofficial People of Influence. These may be people who are trusted by high-level leaders or who wield a lot of power through influence and not position.

The goal of following these guidelines is to make sure every possible stakeholder is identified. Some of your stakeholders may play major roles, while others may have minor roles and little or no interest or interaction. Regardless of size or role, every stakeholder’s needs must be assessed, and you cannot meet the needs of a stakeholder you have not identified.

Reprinted from The Handbook of Program Management

Posted by Dr. James Brown in Stakeholder Management.


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