Identifying Project Stakeholders

Identify stakeholdersAs a project manager if you are able to identify stakeholders properly and come up with strategy to manage their expectations, much of your success is guaranteed!

We saw in an earlier post about identifying a stakeholder, “stakeholder is a person or organization, whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by execution or completion of the project.”

Identifying stakeholders is a very important activity. If one or two crucial stakeholders are missed, rest of the Communication Management processes will not yield good results no matter how well they are executed.

Consider this. What if one of the missed stakeholders comes along during project execution phase and requests for a major change? The change cannot be ignored since the person is an important stakeholder. Moreover, her interests and influence on the project were not considered during planning process. This can be a recipe for disaster. You can imagine how major issues can arise on the project if an important stakeholder does not get a required information on time.

It is important to understand that stakeholders’ interest can influence the project positively or negatively.

Consider this example we saw earlier –

State government puts up a proposal to change the path of river Netravathi so that dry land areas above the Western Ghats can be irrigated. This will benefit hundreds of farmers who will get water for most part of the year for irrigation. However, a set of farmers whose farm lands will be acquired by the government for this project stage a protest.

Here, the farmers staging protest are negative stakeholders, because if the project was to succeed they will lose their land.

A project may have negative stakeholders, and they provide a great opportunity for you to create strong support for the project.


Effectively address their concerns, and they become advocates of the project – which is great for project success! This is one of the goals of stakeholder management strategy.

Whats the deal?

We need Project charter, being the very first document created on the project, that has reference to internal and external stakeholders. This is required to be studied to identify as many stakeholders as we possibly can.

Why are procurement documents required as an input to this process?

If your company bids a project with seller, OR if you have a contract in place for your project, OR if you are planning on contracting out part of the project – then there are external stakeholders in picture. This is the reason you would need these procurement documents (or any other name it is called by) as an input to this process.

Identifying stakeholders is not a one-time exercise. There are processes such as collecting requirements, for instance, during which you will discover more stakeholders.

We may find existing templates, lessons learned and stakeholder register from earlier projects to be helpful.

Steps of Identifying Stakeholders

Stakeholder analysis is an important technique to create stakeholder register.

Step1: Identify stakeholders from the info you already have

Identify key stakeholders from the project charter and procurement documents. Add to this list people from the organization that you think should be involved.

Step2: Collect information about them

It is okay if you don’t get everyone at the first go, or identify few people who are not really stakeholders in your project. Stakeholder register is a living document. Once you have all the names, get some crucial information about them that you must know. Their role, level of influence on the project, level of knowledge that you can leverage, interests in the project and such.

Step3: Plot power-interest grid

This step is critical. With the information you have collected above prepare a power-interest grid and place each stakeholder in the appropriate quadrant based on their level of power and interest on the project, as shown in the figure in the next page.

This will then tell you about people you should spend more time on and people you can afford to spend less time on, and people that you should keep satisfied (refer to Manage Stakeholder Engagement process) and stakeholders that you should keep informed about the developments on the project.

Similar to power-interest grid you can prepare power-influence grid, influence-impact grid and Salient model (which is basically grouping stakeholders based on their power, need of attention and their involvement in the project). Doing these will help you manage your time well, AND manage stakeholders expectations well.

First, refer to the power-interest grid below. Let us look at couple of examples of how you can assign stakeholders to this grid –

CEO of performing organization has good amount of power over the project but may not be much interested (he is more interested in new business and revenue, let us say). You would put him into top-left quadrant and will provide him information like project progress and customer feedback that keeps him satisfied knowing that project is going smooth.

Chief of Process Excellence team may be much interested in the project, to see how you implement processes. However, she does not have much power to exercise on the project. As a project manager, you would keep her informed on certain information like process metrics.

Power Interest grid Figure 1: The Power-Interest grid

Here is an interactive tool using which you can prepare Power-Interest grid for your own project!

Step4: Plan on how to manage these stakeholders

Refer your risk register, look at each of identified risks and make a note of how each of the risks can affect these stakeholders, and plan how you will manage them.

The second tool is expert judgment, which means that you talk to experts inside or outside the company and get guidance on how else you can identify potentially missed stakeholders.

Meetings, the third tool, refers to discussions with specific project team members or groups to analyze and identify stakeholders.

What does a Stakeholder Register contain?

Stakeholder register is a document that contains stakeholder information gathered using the tools and techniques we saw earlier.

The main content would be information such as stakeholder names, designations, roles, location, contact information, their expectations, and levels of knowledge, interest and influence over project.

Stakeholder management strategy can be represented in a tabular format as below –
Stakeholder management strategy

Figure 2: Stakeholder management strategy tabular format

Since stakeholder information can be sensitive and stakeholder management strategy document is a project document, project manager should exercise caution on what kind of information is to be included.

Take a moment and look back at the power-interest grid above. This is a place where all stakeholders (or groups) are placed in order to strategize how their expectations are handled.

Now, project manager also IS a stakeholder in the project. Where would you place the project manager on this grid?

Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

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