Stakeholders are specific people or groups who have a stake or an interest in the outcome of the project. Normally stakeholders are within the company and could include internal clients, management, employees, administrators, etc. A project may also have external stakeholders, including suppliers, investors, community groups and government organizations.
Small projects typically don't have to worry about understanding and managing the stakeholder community. You usually have to deal with a sponsor (the person that requested the work) and that's about it.
As your project gets larger however, you generally have more stakeholders to worry about. If you have a large and diverse stakeholder community it makes sense to perform a stakeholder analysis. This stakeholder analysis will help you determine the various stakeholder groups, their needs, and how you will satisfy their needs. You can use the following process for stakeholder analysis.
- Identify Stakeholders. Start by identifying all possible stakeholders. These could be individual persons or stakeholder groups.
- Determine the importance of each stakeholder. Look at each stakeholder and determine how important he or she is to the success of your project. You might categorize each stakeholder in terms of high/medium/low importance. This evaluation is important because sometimes you spend too much time and effort working with stakeholders that are of low importance to your project, while short-changing the time you spend on stakeholders that are very important.
- Identify the interest of the project for each stakeholder. This is where the analysis starts. Stakeholders have a stake or interest in your project. Now you have to identify what this stake or interest is. In some cases the stakeholder might need something from your project team. In other cases, you may need something from them.
- Determine how you will engage each stakeholder. For each stakeholder, you should identify a set of activities or even an overall approach for getting them engaged. You should identify activities that help you to achieve your interest while also recognizing the relative importance of each stakeholder group. Obviously you will spend more time working with stakeholder groups that are important to your project and less time on groups that are of low priority.
- Gain agreement when necessary. In some cases, stakeholders want things from your project. However, in other instances you need something from them. If you need something from the stakeholder or stakeholder group, make sure that they understand what your expectations are and make sure that they agree to provide what you need.
- Move the activities to the workplan. You don't want to keep a separate stakeholder activity spreadsheet. After you identify the activities to engage the stakeholder groups, place all of the activities in the project workplan, along with who is responsible, the timeframe, estimated effort, etc.
The stakeholder community should also be evaluated periodically to ensure that the stakeholders are being engaged successfully. If the stakeholders are not being engaged as you wished, you should update or change your activities. It is possible that you will also discover new stakeholders as the project progresses, and they should be accounted for in this process as well.