Project stakeholders: Understanding the types, importance, and identification process

Defining Project stakeholders

By the word itself, we understand it means ‘people who hold a stake’. So, project stakeholders include all those people who hold a stake in a project. Either they can create an impact on the project or they are getting impacted by the project.

By this definition we know their role in any project is critical. We need to know what they expect from the project. What is the purpose behind doing this project and what outcomes will satisfy the stakeholders? An answer to this question depicts the importance of stakeholders in a project.

Project stakeholders either gain or lose from the project. If stakeholders are happy with the project outcomes, you can call your project a success. If stakeholders are unhappy, you need to find the reasons for their unhappiness or the outcomes that didn’t satisfy them.

Managing these stakeholders and their requirements is what is meant by project management. To manage the project well, you need to identify the stakeholders and understand their needs. You must engage with them throughout the lifecycle of the project to know their feedback.

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Importance of Project stakeholders

Stakeholders are important for any project because of the following reasons:

They give a direction to the project

A project manager manages the project and the project team performs all the tasks. But, what do you want to achieve from the project is defined by the stakeholders. They define their requirements before the project starts.

They mention what they expect from the project. With these expectations, you define the outcomes of the project. Thus, they help you outline the direction in which the project must move to reach the defined goals.

Their expertise works wonders for the success of the project

Stakeholders have an interest in the project because they can gain something from it. They will derive some benefits from it. Since their interest is at stake, they contribute to the project in form of their expertise.

Their expertise in the form of clarifying the outcomes, defining the requirements, and industry knowledge contribute to the project immensely. This results in a higher probability of project success. Thus, with their high investment in the project in terms of time, insights, and effort, you can improve the project’s success rate.

They identify potential risks to a project

At the beginning of the project, you elicit requirements from the stakeholders. During these discussions, stakeholders also talk about potential risks to the project. Since they are better aware of historical projects and have industry knowledge, they know what type of obstacles the project may face.

This can help you to identify the project risks. Thus, you can prepare the project for such risks and develop action plans to fight them. Thus, you can minimize or mitigate risks and improve the success probability of your project.

Their involvement increases the project acceptability

When you involve stakeholders in the project, their loyalty towards the project increases. They feel involved and invited in the discussions of the project. They know they are contributing to the project and feel motivated to give their best.

In the end, when you generate outcomes that align with stakeholders’ requirements, the project gets a positive closure. The stakeholders accept the project and its outcomes because of their continuous involvement in it. They have been aware of all the project variables during the execution, and hence, their acceptability is higher.

Types of Project stakeholders

Categorization of stakeholders can be done in three ways:

Internal and external stakeholders

Internal stakeholders are part of the company; for example, employees, owners, etc.

External stakeholders are not part of the company; for example, customers, suppliers, media, market, etc.

Primary and secondary stakeholders

Primary stakeholders are the people who get affected by the project the most. For example, project managers, owners, and project teams.

Secondary stakeholders are less affected by the project. For example, suppliers, community, etc.

Direct and indirect stakeholders

Direct stakeholders are involved in the day-to-day operations of the project. For example, project team members.

Indirect stakeholders are not involved in the daily activities but are affected by the project outcomes. For example, customers.

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Ways to identify project stakeholders

Identifying the stakeholders of a project is essential to obtain project inputs. They are not the same for every project. So, it is important to identify them before starting the project execution.

You can identify the project stakeholders through:

Project charter

The project charter is an official document that is the proof of authorization of a project. It defines the project and its goals, client, and sponsor. It mentions the team members, stakeholders, and roles and responsibilities in the project.

Thus, you can identify the stakeholders from the project charter. There are other documents such as the contractual agreement with the client, which also mentions the stakeholders.

Engage in brainstorming

For identifying stakeholders, you can conduct a brainstorming exercise. Once the project is finalized, the participants must write the project name in the center. Now, identify and write all the individuals or organizations that will be affected by the project or can influence the project.  

You must write the names of all possible people falling in this category. Mention the name, role, and representing organization around the project’s name. Now, you can identify their types and place them in groups for better comprehension.  

During this exercise among project team members, try to find answers to the following questions: 

  • Who is directly or indirectly involved in the project? 
  • Who will get affected by the project outcomes? 
  • Who will gain from the project’s success? 
  • Who will lose something because of the project? 
  • Who can play a role in the project? 
  • Who can lead to project failure? 
  • Who are the competitors? 
  • Who can make decisions for the project? 

Interviewing project team members

Another way to identify project stakeholders is to interview the project team members. You can interview the project managers and other employees working on the project. You can also interact with the senior management or team leaders to identify the stakeholders.

Reviewing the project influences

Project influences mean the environment and the condition in which the project operates. These include Enterprise Environmental Factors (EEF) and Organizational Process Assets (OPA). By reviewing these EEFs and OPAs, you can identify project stakeholders.  

Organizational process assets mean the assets of the organization that aid in achieving goals. They are internal to any organization. They facilitate your project; you may use them as they are or change some aspects as per the project requirements. OPA includes: 

  • Procedures, policies, general guidelines, and standard templates for carrying out work in the organization. These are unique to any organization and you use them for performing operations. Generally, these do not change, but you can update them rarely, as and when you find it necessary. 
  • The central repository of information, data, and knowledge to be used by the organization. This includes past project files, historical data, lessons learned, a list of stakeholders, and the risk register. You can use these documents as a base and build upon them for the project you are working on.  

Enterprise environmental factors are the internal or external factors that affect the project and its outcomes. These factors can be internal or external to the organization. These factors are outside your control and can affect the project positively or negatively.  

Organizational infrastructure, culture, hierarchy, and resource availability are some of the internal EEFs. Some of the external EEFs include market settings, industry standards, regulations and laws, legal constraints, and the external political environment.   

Some EEAs may be good for your project while some may hinder the project execution. Also, changing EEAs is not under your control; you have to execute your project despite the presence of EEAs.  

Conclusion

Thus, before starting the project, make it a practice to identify all stakeholders. You need to put into practice some tips to manage these stakeholders well during the project. So, stakeholder identification, analysis, and management are essential processes of any project.

Involve them throughout the project lifecycle to know their feedback. Keep communicating with them so that their views and reviews are incorporated wherever necessary. Understand their perspective to drive the project to success.

You can do the stakeholder identification and management process internally. Alternatively, you can engage IT consultants to ensure effective process.

Get to know your project stakeholders and manage them well
to ensure your project’s success

About Technovisors

Technovisors is a prominent IT consultant in India providing IT consultancy services to several global clients. We are also into offering the best digital marketing and data analytics services to our clients.

We help our clients manage their projects and manage stakeholder expectations as well. Our team of professional experts can help you with identifying stakeholders, understanding their requirements, and achieving those. We incorporate the perspective of every stakeholder of your project into the scheme of things, as that can lead to value outcomes from the project.

FAQs About Project stakeholders

For managing Project stakeholders, you must identify them and their roles and responsibilities for the project. Now, you must understand their requirements and project expectations. Once you have this information, keep them involved throughout the project lifecycle.  

You must know how much information to share with them and at what point of the project. Give them insights on project status, timelines, costs, and achievement of objectives. Thus, they feel their opinions matter and they are valued.

A shareholder is an individual providing some investment in the company. They provide financial support to the company and thus have an interest in the company. Thus, a shareholder is a stakeholder.  

But a stakeholder is not necessarily a shareholder. This is because a stakeholder has an interest in the company whether they give any financial support or not to the company. Stakeholders benefit from the project’s success.

About the Author

Pathik Shah

(CISA, FCA, CS, DISA (ICAI), FAFP (ICAI))

Pathik is a multi-disciplinary professional with more than 22 years of experience in compliance, risk management, accounting, system audits, IT consultancy, and digital marketing. He has extensive knowledge of Anti-Money Laundering rules and regulations, and he helps companies comply with legal requirements. Pathik also helps companies generate value from their IT investments.