14 Questions that can help identify project portfolio stakeholders

by Jan Schiller

In my recent article, Eight tips for identifying your project portfolio stakeholders, I mentioned that I keep a list of questions I have found to be effective in helping me find project portfolio stakeholders. Here are 14 questions that can help identify project portfolio stakeholders!

Stakeholders are the people that care about your project portfolio for one reason or another. Identifying those people who have a stake in your project portfolio is critical; miss just one and your project portfolio’s success can be significantly undermined. Consider asking these questions to determine who you should develop and sustain relationships with in order to attain the highest levels of accomplishment, achievement, and benefits:

  1. Who is impacted by the project portfolio’s approach? Remember to consider positive and negative impacts.
  2. Who regulates the solution space? Who creates the project environment? Neglecting to include regulators or audits, compliance, and risk management functions can leave you scrambling at the last minute. Forgetting to involve the people that establish the development, quality, and implementation environments that the projects in your project portfolio rely on can lead to schedule mishaps and delays.
  3. Who created or can stop, change or defer the project portfolio’s strategic alignment? It is not enough to work only with the sponsor of the strategy your project portfolio is aligned with. Include those that can influence the strategy once it is in place. Knowing who opposes or questions the project portfolio’s value is just as important as knowing who embraces it.
  4. Who must sign off on key decisions? The number of stakeholders revealed by this question is largely determined by your organization’s structure and reporting relationships.
  5. Who can help resolve issues that are stumping your teams? When the best efforts of your teams fail to resolve an issue, understanding the escalation path is essential.
  6. What business functions are interested in or should review project portfolio deliverables? Usually, it is not enough to have the strategy owner review significant milestone results, although they might have the final say in the matter. Remember to include enterprise technology and governance functions.
  7. Who are the key people involved in the interdependencies identified by your teams? Rare is the project portfolio that operates in a vacuum. Understand who is waiting for results, and when your project portfolio is waiting on results.
  8. Who loses? Who benefits? Not everyone may benefit from the achievement of the strategy. Look for those areas that may have to sacrifice something in order to achieve success at the enterprise level.
  9. Who gets more work? Whose workload is reduced? Realizing the value of your project portfolio may require that new processes are created, or that existing processes are modified. Ideally, any improvement has a net result of reducing workload at the enterprise level; however, some areas may have to absorb additional efforts or people in order to make that success possible.
  10. Who must change? Stakeholders become a part of your organizational change plan. Approximately one-third of those affected will welcome the change; another one-third will resist the change.
  11. Who will be unhappy? Who will be ecstatic? Pay attention to the nonverbal reactions of people when you describe your project portfolio’s path and value. You want to have concerns, dissatisfaction, and discouragement represented in your stakeholder group, as well as contentment, joy, and delight.
  12. Who influences you? This could be your manager, your program and project managers, a supplier, or a subject matter expert.
  13. Who has ideas about how to go about achieving the strategy the project portfolio is designed to deliver? Seeking out and acknowledging those ideas is just as important as determining which ones (if any) to implement.
  14. Who is funding your project portfolio? The person with the pocketbook usually has a significant amount of influence.

Make the time to complete a stakeholder impact analysis. Follow the trail revealed by the initial analysis and repeat the process for peers of the stakeholders already identified. The resulting list of stakeholders should be included in the communication plan. The stakeholders can be represented in the project portfolio’s steering committee, furthering guiding the delivery of its intended value and strategy.


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