What is stakeholder management?

A few weeks ago, a coaching client of mine asked me to explain stakeholder management. He wanted me to provide him with a definitive list of his stakeholders for his particular project, and asked: “Who are my stakeholders?” First let’s begin with the essentials, the definition of a stakeholder and stakeholder management.

What is stakeholder management?

The Project Management Institute defines a stakeholder as “those who have a stake or an interest in a project or strategy undertaken by a company or an organization, they will be affected in some way by the project and so have an interest in influencing it.” Stakeholders can be either internal or external to the client’s organization. Internal stakeholders work within the client’s organization, and external stakeholders do not work for the organization, but they still have an interest in the project. Stakeholder management involves the client reconciling “the differing stakeholder requirements and passing on clear direction to the project manager” in order to gain a collective agreement and successfully complete the project (PMI, 2003).

Four stages of Stakeholder Management

There are four basic steps in stakeholder management.

  1. Identifying the list of stakeholders to be considered and whether their interest is positive or negative (or neutral).
  2. Clarifying the interest, involvement and the sphere of influence of each stakeholder/ stakeholder group in the project.
  3. Agreeing on the process by which stakeholder engagement will take place.
  4. Managing the ongoing relationship until the project is completed making adjustments as needed.

 1. Stakeholder list

First, we want to identify who the stakeholders are. Often, we focus on the people who will benefit from the initiative, supporters of the project. It is important to remember that the broad group “stakeholders” includes anyone who has an interest in the project – positive or negative.

Clearly, in the case of my coaching client, this would include the customers who will change the way they do business, and it will include the sponsor of the project, the team designing, building and testing of the new software, any department whose workflow will be impacted,

We loosely identified stakeholder groups as people who:

Stakeholder groupPositiveNegative
Use the system today and will use the new system tomorrow +
People who support the system today and will continue to support the new system +
People who support the system today who will no longer support – –
People responsible for reaping the expected business benefit + +
People whose processes will change as a result of the new system +
People responsible for communicating the change to the outside world NeutralNeutral
People responsible for creating and leading training in the new system +
The management team (MT) of the organization + +
The customers we already have +
Customers we hope to attract in the future +
Anyone receiving data from the new system +
Project Team Members+
Project Manager+

TIP: Brainstorm the list with as many people as possible. Using a Responsible Accountable Consulted Informed (RACI), or Responsible Accountable Supportive Consulted Informed (RASCI) matrix can help you focus on what sort of involvement you expect them to have. A RACI or RASCI  matrix can be used to identify roles and responsibilities during change management processes. Get all the possible stakeholders on the list that you can. It is easy to remove people. It can be painful to bring someone new up to speed that you missed the first time around.

2. Interest, involvement, and sphere of influence

For each stakeholder group, my client made a further list of the members, and he started to highlight those who might have special requests or special interest in the project beyond that suggested by their organizational role.

Stakeholder Probable Positive interestPossible Negative interestNext stepSOI
User – external customer/account holderNew features and ease of use of the new systemMay not like change, may be comfortable with the features that exist todayFocus group

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