One of the greatest assets to a project manager in delivering a successful project is ‘people’. Not just the project team, but also the project’s wider stakeholders. By identifying them early in the process and engaging them effectively and regularly throughout the project you can ensure that you don’t miss any vital information and that they support your project, rather than block it.

What is stakeholder identification and analysis?

A stakeholder is an individual, a group of people, or an organisation who can affect or be affected positively or negatively by your project.

Before you can engage project stakeholders, you first need to identify them. Then you analyse them to place them into appropriate groups. This will then help you develop the right plan for communicating with those groups throughout the project.

Why this is important?

The benefits of identifying the right stakeholders and properly analysing them is that:

  • You’ll improve the quality of the project, as stakeholders can give you vital information and make sure you don’t miss anything important
  • You can avoid delays by making stakeholders supporters rather than obstacles to getting approval
  • Supporters could provide you extra resources for the project.

Failing to identify and engage the right stakeholders could potentially result in your project going over budget, missing important deadlines, wasting the time and energy of the people delivering the project and, ultimately, the project being labelled a failure and shelved.

How to identify stakeholders

Whether you do this yourself, or in a group comprising your core project team (which is advised), you can help to kick start stakeholder identification by asking the following questions in a brainstorming session:

  • Who is affected positively and negatively by the project?
  • Who has the power to make it succeed (or fail)?
  • Who makes the decisions about money?
  • Who are the suppliers?
  • Who are the end users?
  • Who has influence over other stakeholders?
  • Who could solve potential problems with the project?
  • Who is in charge of assigning or procuring resources or facilities?
  • Who has specialist skills which are crucial to the project?

How to analyse stakeholders

Once you have a list of all your potential stakeholders you’ll now need to analyse them – which means placing them in categories.
Classifying your stakeholders is important as each will be more important than others and have more interest than others.This analysis will help you decide on how often you will communicate with certain groups of stakeholders and what you will communicate to them.

You can break down your stakeholders into four categories:

High Power/High Interest (Fully engage)
These stakeholders are the ones that need to be engaged regularly and managed closely. These are the key players. This group will require the most effort to keep satisfied.

High Power/Low Interest (Keep satisfied)
Keep these stakeholders satisfied by striking a careful balance between keeping them informed, but not overloading them with too much information.

Low Power/High Interest (Keep informed)
You should keep these stakeholders adequately informed and consult with them regarding their area of interest, and make sure they don’t have any major issues with the project. These stakeholders can often help with the detail of the project.

Low Power/Low Interest (Minimum effort)
Inform these stakeholders with general information. Don’t overload them with excessive communication, but you should monitor them, because they may become more powerful to the project and have a higher interest in it, for example, if they change job roles.

Develop a communications plan

Once you’ve prioritised your stakeholders, you can then start to develop a plan on how you communicate with them – giving each group the right level of information with the right frequency.

There are lots of ways you can communicate with stakeholders. These include:

  • Meetings
  • Status reports
  • Newsletters
  • Letters
  • Emails
  • Website

The mix of these methods will depend on your particular project and the needs of your stakeholders.

Identify and analyse stakeholders

Mind mapping provides you with a way of visually generating and managing the information you need to identify and analyse stakeholders.

Step 1: Brainstorm your stakeholders
Open a new map and simply type and hit return for each stakeholder name. It’s a quick way of capturing names and keeping up with the flow of ideas.

Step 2: Assign your categories

Select the name on the map, and then select the right category for that person. You’ll find the categories High Power/High Interest, High Power/Low Interest, Low Power/High Interest, Low Power/Low Interest pre-installed. You can create your own categories too.

Step 3: Filter the categories

Using the Quick Filter button in the Analyse ribbon, select the category you’d like to filter your map by.

Step 4: Choose another layout Select different Map Layouts to display the data in a way that helps you understand the information better.