How to Identify stakeholders

One of the trickiest jobs in project management is identifying stakeholders. We cannot give you the definitive approach (for that you will have to study PRINCE2, or if you want to be a programme manager, MSP) but we can give you pointers on identifying the different species of stakeholders.

  1. What are stakeholders? Stakeholders are people, groups or organisations that have an interest in or might be affected by the outcome of a project.
  2. What do stakeholders look like? There is not, unfortunately, a stakeholder guide, marking out the distinguishing features of the different species, so you need to know how to hunt out the many types; our diagram will give you some idea of the varieties to be found.
  3. How many stakeholders will there be? This will vary throughout the project. Aside from the several key stakeholders who will normally stick with you to the end, there will be numerous others at different levels of importance who will migrate in and out. If your project is controversial you will find that, like bees drawn to honey, any number of stakeholders will appear from nowhere. As a result, it is important to identify them in an organised and timely fashion.
  4. Who is responsible for stakeholder identification? Normally the process is undertaken at programme level, but all projects must have some stakeholder engagement and this is particularly so where a project is not part of a programme. Either way, since there isn’t, unfortunately, one single stakeholder expert who you can call on, it’s a task for the team.
  5. What should you bear in mind about the identification process? Think about who should be or who might want to be involved in the process. Once you’ve done that get the team to cast the net wide in order to capture as many stakeholders as possible. Make sure they focus on identifying the correct stakeholders rather than on worrying about how many are found or who they are.
  6. What help is there to find stakeholders? Plenty. You could, for instance, ask for input from stakeholders of current or past projects or ask for views from professionals in the field you are working in, or you could research government, academic or industry reports. In the end, whatever you do, you will still at some point have to sit down as a team and brainstorm.
  7. What are the top tips for identifying stakeholders? Questions can help direct and prompt ideas in the brainstorming process. Here are a few: who is affected positively or negatively by the project; who gains and who loses from it; who wants it to succeed and who wants it to fail; who has the power to make the project succeed or fail; who makes the money decisions; who are the positive and negative opinion leaders; who exercises influence over other stakeholders; who could solve particular problems; who controls or provides or procures resources or facilities; who has the special skills needed by the project?
  8. How should you classify your collection? You can categorise stakeholders in different groups, such as users and beneficiaries or governance and regulators. A stakeholder map can be an invaluable way to record who they are and their interest in the project. It is also worth working out which are the key and which the minor stakeholders remembering that, as always, things can change – and that they usually will.
  9. What should you remember? One characteristic common to both the natural and the business world is that every group has individuals with varying degrees of power and influence. So you need to find individual stakeholders within the formal and informal groups in an organisation. Do not be surprised if you find that some individuals fall into more than one group or have links with other stakeholders. Good luck!

Potential Stakeholders – Watch out for Links Between Them and Remember to Look for Individual Stakeholders in Organisations

diagram

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