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Managing Stakeholders

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Stakeholders are any individuals or groups that have a clearly definable interest in your project. They include those who make a direct input to the project, such as the project team, as well as those who are impacted by it, for example, the customer. In large or complex projects, the list of stakeholders may become very long indeed. Since stakeholders can, to differing degrees, influence the success of a project, either by giving active support or by working against the project, it is very important for the project leader to understand who they are and their likely impact. Stakeholder analysis assists this process.

Identifying Stakeholders

Identify who you believe to be the key stakeholders at all stages of the project. A mind-map is a useful way to collect this information. The diagram below shows a partially completed mind-map for an NSPCC project.  


Stakeholder Analysis

Once you have identified all stakeholders, even those that might have only a peripheral involvement, follow the steps below:

  • Determine their influence - is it high, medium or low?
  • Predict their view of the project - for, against or neutral?
  • Map their position on the following chart.

Note: It is quite possible you won't have a clear understanding of your stakeholders' attitudes until you have spoken to them about the project. It is important to have these discussions as earlier as possible during the Definition Phase to ensure any consideration that might affect the objectives or scope of the project are taken into account before finalising your decisions.


The next step is to consider how the stakeholders might be managed. Some of the questions you might ask are:

  • Can new stakeholders be brought into play to shift the balance?
  • Can existing stakeholders be withdrawn or subtly distracted?
  • Is it possible to boost the influence of stakeholders who are currently in favour of the project?
  • Is it possible to reduce the influence of stakeholders who are against the project?
  • Can coalitions of stakeholders in favour be achieved so as to strengthen their combined influence?
  • Can coalitions of stakeholders antagonistic to the project be prevented?
  • Can the project itself, in appearance or in substance, be reformulated to diffuse hostility?
  • Are there possibilities of ‘bringing on board’ negative stakeholders by allowing them a role or incorporating their ideas?
  • Is the pattern of influence of stakeholders sufficiently hostile to the project to warrant a redefinition of the project itself?

Diagrammatically, this can be represented:


Stakeholder Engagement Plan

Once you have mapped all your stakeholders and decided on how you will management them, incorporate your findings into a stakeholder engagement plan. Using a spreadsheet, identify for each stakeholder how you intend to communicate with them throughout the project, including who will take this responsibility, what type of information will need to be communicated, in what format and how frequently.