Here’s How you Identify & Manage Stakeholders

One of the most important elements to successful project delivery is, Stakeholder Management; stakeholder management is the management of all parties that have an interest or stake in a project, ranging from, the people responsible for the project; subject matter experts; key decision makers; the do-ers, to the end users.

Effective stakeholder management can either make your job really easy or really hard; the better you are at stakeholder management and managing people’s expectations, requirements, input and perceptions, the more value you will get from your dealings and interactions with your project stakeholders.

Below I highlight effective and well-established ways of identifying; analysing and managing stakeholders.

Identifying Stakeholders

If your role includes working in ambiguous project environments, with uncertainty or you are charged with delivering a project that is at its very early stages, identifying stakeholders is a high priority task. Some of the ways in which they can be identified is by first of all consulting with the individuals responsible for the sponsorship of the project, which one would assume would hold some basic or detailed knowledge around who the individuals or teams that may be affected by the project.

Although this is certainly a good starting point, it would also be value-adding to review project documentation produced to highlight the scope, benefits and value of the project, as these documents such as the ‘Project Initiation Document’ or ‘Charter’ will highlight the direction for the project, individuals/teams impacted and much more, which will give you good indication and direction on the people/teams/departments you may want to consider.

The project may be closely interlinked with other already established business processes, which may be owned by related stakeholders who would be a good source for information on interested parties.

You may want to reach out to core departments such as ‘Legal’; ‘Risk’; ‘Compliance’; ‘Customer Experience’ and other related teams if available to simply ask if they would need to have an input on the project; you may need to send them project documentation; it will typically be common knowledge however if you need to get certain teams involved.

Stakeholder Analysis

Based on the above activities, it may be that you’ve now generated a list of thirty stakeholders that need to be considered as part of your project. Sometimes stakeholder lists, depending on the size of organisation you’re working with can grow to be quite big, so it is imperative that we employ a sustainable system that (1) enables the project team to understand stakeholder input/requirements/involvement etc, as expecting the project team to remember who’s-who in their head is of course unsustainable; (2) allows us to individually mark who requires what level of updates and involvement, as they are two important items, that are independent of each other.

Interest/Influence Analysis

The first part is to understand from your list, which stakeholders wield high levels of ‘Influence’ and high levels of ‘Interest’. Lucky for us, there’s a simple matrix that’s typically employed to understand where people on your stakeholder sit as follows:

The matrix below brings to your attention four quadrants that should all be managed accordingly:

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‘High Power; Low Interest’: Little level of updates/input required, if any. The people in this group are considered to be passive, but may become more actively involved depending on interest and move in appropriate quadrant.
‘High Power; High Interest’: Should be kept informed throughout, as typically decision makers or high impact influencers.
‘Low Power; Low Interest’: Need little monitoring, as stakeholders are not interested, however may benefit from the odd periodical update.
‘Low Power; High Interest’: Should be kept informed of project activity, as may be able to influence powerful stakeholders.

With this information and your better understanding on the impact of individual stakeholders, it’s important to set up a Stakeholder Register/List and classify each stakeholder based on the results from (1) your influence/interest matrix and (2) knowledge on the level of input the stakeholders will have. I’ll talk about the register further.

RACI Classification

RACI classification is system used to understand the what involvement, responsibility and/or accountability stakeholders have for project tasks/deliverables/updates etc. The RACI system is broken down as follows:

  • Responsible (for): The “do-er” who is responsible for delivering the item in question.
  • Accountable: This is the person who “owns” the project/task/activity who the buck ends with, who has responsibility for the activity/project/task at hand. This can also be stakeholders with decision-making abilities.
  • Consult (with): This is a person who will have an input on the project, which could include a Subject Matter Expert; end-user or decision maker
  • Inform: These are individuals who you are to keep informed of project/task/activity progress, who may be impacted by the project, mainly end-users or low power; high interest stakeholders.

A stakeholder can belong to more than one classification, however, be warned, this can get a little messy if you’re filtering with Excel, which we’ll talk about later. May be easier if you’re using a software package.

Nonetheless, this approach to classification will make it easy for the project team to identify individuals who need to be updated according to the stakeholder management strategy.

Stakeholder Management

Here’s where you set the tools up to effectively manage your stakeholders. There are two key elements to effective management; they include (1) a coherent and useful Stakeholder Register and (2) Stakeholder Management Strategy.

Stakeholder Register

This is the register that will list all of your stakeholders with respective RACI classification, along with any further information or insight in to that particular stakeholder. This typically works best as an Excel spreadsheet, with filtering capabilities. The spreadsheet may have the following headings for columns:

  • Name
  • Department
  • Title
  • Role on Project
  • Expectations
  • Level of Interest
  • Level of Influence
  • Involvement (Level of)
  • RACI Classification
  • Date Added
  • Sign-off Required
  • [Deliverable #1] Signed-off (if required)
  • [Deliverable #2] Signed-off (if required)
  • [Deliverable #[…]] Signed-off (if required)

You can download a template I’ve put together for you here.

Stakeholder Strategy

The stakeholder strategy will inform the project team on the level of detail of updates; frequency; who will be responsible for updates; detail of any walk-throughs to be delivered; when they will be delivered e.g. before sign-off requests; what to do if stakeholders are non-responsive, which will happen! And any other detail around the complete process of managing stakeholders.

Naturally, keeping all of this information in a centralised location and incorporating updates, deliverable releases etc in to your project calendar would be useful, as related tasks like this will ensure the correct stakeholders receive the correct information at the right time. It is also equally as important to maintain strict professional, based on a friendly, courteous and respectful approach, ultimately resulting in sustained relationships over the long-term that goes beyond the project. Remember, you may be working with the same stakeholder in the future and it is extremely important to maintain credibility, a quality reputation and good relationships for subsequent projects.

Not forgetting soft skills as part of your stakeholder management, the book, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People‘ is certainly a must read. It drives the idea of emotional intelligence and has great techniques in how to get more value out of your relationships. Soft skills are an essential skill to a good stakeholder manager and developing these soft skills, by reading such books, or further learning, will certainly add value to your project delivery skills.

Good luck with managing your stakeholders.