Project Stakeholders

Managing Project Stakeholders

As you move ahead in your project management career, you advance from managing small project teams who may share a common superior and work in the same department. The scope of those projects is aimed at providing something that project sponsor wants. They may be the only project stakeholder. After some project successes, you’re managing projects that involve larger teams drawn from multiple departments as well as vendors and contractors from outside organizations. Now you must spend more of your time managing the project stakeholders.  Stakeholders Main Page

Project stakeholders are a very large and diverse group. They may include:

  • department managers who are lending you resources
  • departments that are performing important tasks on your project, like develop a computer program or constructing office facilities
  • departments that may use the product of the project and have a major stake in its features, characteristics and performance
  • organizations that may be affected by the performance of or the results from your project
  • individuals within or external to your organization who will provide certain kinds of expertise that you don’t have on your project team.

In sum, stakeholders are an important and diverse group. They often have a powerful influence on the success or failure of your project. That’s why you need to spend a great deal of time identifying people who are affected, positively or negatively, by your project. You must communicate with them and keep them posted on the progress of the project, or at least those parts and deliverables in which they are interested.

The other reason you must identify stakeholders early and continuously is because you do not want to be surprised by new project requirements a month before the completion date. You seek out these stakeholders and gather their requirements so you can determine if the requirements should be included or excluded. That reduces the likelihood of unpleasant surprises later on.

Project Stakeholder Register

Experienced project managers always keep a stakeholder register to identify the more significant stakeholders and their requirements.  The stakeholder register serves several purposes. First, it guides your communications with stakeholders. Obviously all stakeholders are not equally important. As an example, those managers who are lending you resources for your project should receive lots of communication about your use of their people and the issues they care about. Stakeholders who are the primary beneficiaries of your project deliverables also require regular communication and cultivation. You must ensure that these people continue to support the project. Finally, any stakeholder who has a requirement should be tracked and notes kept on the nature of their requirement and what happens to it.

Don’t Ignore Project Stakeholders

As a project manager, you must let others be part of your project in order to succeed. Project StakeholdersSome people may want to block your project and prevent it from accomplishing its goals in terms of scope, cost, duration, and risk. These project stakeholders are often people you did not identify during your planning phase. However, it is very important to include in your plan a general strategy to deal with them during execution. We can call them the known unknown stakeholders. We know that we will meet them at some point, but we do not know who are they.

These project stakeholders might be an individual, a government agency, an organization, or a group of people. They attack the project and try to affect the project dimensions, scope, duration, cost, and risk. The challenge is how to plan for a risk if you do not know when it will occur. The best approach is to have a general strategy to deal with known unknown stakeholders. The project stakeholder might want some befits such as recognition, or to be part of the success, get training, or they are having some trouble with one of your team members, etc. The price you might pay is not too high.

Your strategy to deal with the known unknown project stakeholders should specify a small percent of the project’s duration or cost as a risk response. During the project execution phase, you should discover theses kind of stakeholders and identify their intentions. Some of them who are not too dangerous to your project, can just be ignored. Some of them may have inaccurate ideas about the project or about some of the project members. You should reassure these people and try to include them in your project success by recognition, invite them to a party, or give them (or their staff) free training. Some of these stakeholders, however, have the power to hurt your project. So you should communicate with them frequently. Keep them updated on the project’s progress to facilitate its execution.

Author: Dick Billows, PMP

Dick has more than 25 years of project and program management experience throughout the US and overseas. Dick was a partner in the 4th largest professional firm and a VP in a Fortune 200 company. He trained and developed 100's of project managers using his methodology. Dick is the author of 14 books, over 300 articles and director/producer of 90 short project management training videos. He and a team of 25 project managers work with client companies & students across the US and in Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. They have assisted over 300 organizations in improving their project performance. Books by Dick Billows, PMP are on