8 Tips for identifying your project portfolio stakeholders

by Jan Schiller

Have you ever found out about a project in your organization’s project portfolio that impacted you, yet you were not contacted or involved? Have you ever had a stakeholder run across your testing playing field with additional scenarios right before your target implementation date? Missing a key stakeholder can have a devastating effect on how successfully your project portfolio delivers its strategy. Here are eight ways to find your project portfolio stakeholders before it is too late.

Successful stakeholder analysis is crucial for establishing solid relationships, trust, and buy-in. The process of discovering the people interested in or impacted by the results of your project portfolio is very fluid. The process will vary based on the nature of the intended strategy the project portfolio is designed to deliver. The context of the conversation and the communication style of the stakeholder are also key considerations.

From my perspective, finding my stakeholders feels like a journey of discovery, of following leads, of being a detective. Here are eight of my techniques for identifying all of a project portfolio’s stakeholders:

  1. I ask questions, then listen carefully to the responses. I am respectful. I ask for ideas and opinions. I try to keep the conversation flowing by relating the project portfolio objective to their perspective, especially if I hear any concerns, disagreement, or excitement.
  2. I am curious. Over the years, I have kept track of the questions that were helpful in revealing the various aspects of a project portfolio, including stakeholders.
  3. I seek to understand what each stakeholder knows and believes, and what they would need to do to adopt the project portfolio’s solution. I invite them to imagine they are one week past the project portfolio’s delivery date and ask them how they would judge the result to be a success. This input helps shape the organizational change plan.
  4. I ask the stakeholder to refer me to other people that they think might be affected by the project portfolio’s objectives and goals. Then I ask those people for referrals.
  5. I seek out people in the organization’s enabling areas, which typically include purchasing (can reveal suppliers), legal (can reveal regulators or compliance entities), audit, technology, marketing, governance, and human resources.
  6. I review the organization chart and map that identifies stakeholders to reveal any gaps and additional stakeholders. For example, I want to be sure I have touched base with all of a stakeholder’s peers.
  7. I develop and present a ‘roadshow’ designed to illustrate the basic elements of the project portfolio as I understand them to date. I ask for feedback. I have found it is easier to gain an audience by asking if I can make a guest appearance at a stakeholder’s existing meeting.
  8. I form a steering committee out of the stakeholders which allows me to stay in touch throughout the life of the project portfolio. The dialogue between stakeholders in this setting is very valuable and goes a long way towards shared understanding. Based on my project portfolio progress, my stakeholder list may change.

What techniques do you use to identify your project portfolio stakeholders? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and techniques.


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