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spike bullet June 2004 - Successful Stakeholdering

Successful Stakeholdering for Business Projects
Identifying Stakeholders, Sample Stakeholder Groups
Benefits of Keeping Stakeholders Involved
Resources (links, books, articles, humor)

color bulletSuccessful Stakeholdering


Stakeholder - someone who has a "stake" in what someone else is doing.  A "stake" means that the project affects their day-to-day work, requires their participation or involvement in some way, or affects them in other ways. 

"Stakeholdering" (or "to stakeholder") describes the process of gathering input, communicating status, and involving or gaining consensus from people who are affected by a project or an issue. 

Successful Stakeholdering for Business Projects

Successful stakeholdering is critical for successful projects.  It is also critical for the  smooth operations of a team,  any cooperative relationship or a partnership venture. 

Successful stakeholdering techniques require political sensitivity.  If you don't already have those skills, they can be developed by working with people to gain consensus until you learn what works and what doesn't.   

Executives and other key individuals have a business interest in a project or initiative.  Stakeholders include anyone whose business operations may change because of the project or initiative.  

Other stakeholders may be suppliers to — or customers of — the directly affected business organization.  They may be affected as they change what they provide or receive in the form of products and services.

Open communication should be maintained between Stakeholders and the Executive Sponsor, Steering Committee and Project Manager.  Stakeholders should raise issues, contribute ideas and anticipate the need for operational changes resulting from implementation of the new system, and work in coordination with the implementation plan to effect those changes.

If Stakeholdering worked correctly, what would happen?

  1. All stakeholders would feel informed.
  2. All affected parties would be involved in time to have an impact on projects.
  3. All affected parties would know in time to plan for the project or changes affecting them or their work.
  4. All stakeholders would know who to contact - for status, for questions, for follow-through, for complaints, for help.
  5. All stakeholders would understand the purpose, focus and impact of an action/change.  In addition, they understand why a change is needed.
  6. Stakeholders would understand their role in the project, process or initiative and they perform that role (accountability).
  7. The Help Desk would  be notified and/or trained to handle customer calls resulting from the changes or project.
  8. Project managers would know who thinks they will be impacted by their project and who needs to be involved.
  9. There would  be timely two-way communication.  The communication would go up and down the organizational lines.
  10. Communications would make sense to receivers.  Writers of information would think about their audience.  A standard format or template would  be used where possible.
  11. People would ask if they have questions and will know when to ask questions, how to ask questions and to whom they should be addressed.
  12. The initiation phase of the project would involve specifying which deliverables the stakeholders are required to review and sign-off on before work can proceed.  Specific stakeholders would be identified in the sign-off.

Because stakeholders have conflicting needs and priorities, it is important to get them involved at the initiation phase of a project, so they can participate in reaching consensus agreement on what constitutes "success" for the project.

Key elements of a successful stakeholder process

  • Communicate and involve stakeholders earlier rather than later.  Most people hate surprises.
  • Identify the appropriate group of stakeholders who are representative of all areas.  
  • Have the right representative(s) at the right place at the right time.
  • Determine who is responsible for what and how people will be held accountable.
  • Create a "Communication Template" identifying:
    • Each type of stakeholder group (e.g., steering committee, business managers, executives, department line staff, all employees, <specific groups of people>, etc.)
    •  What role they play in communications (e.g., must approve, have input, receive information, etc.)
  • Send the communication template to the entire stakeholder group before finalizing it.  
  • Send a detailed agenda and supporting information to stakeholders before meetings where changes will be proposed (e.g., What is the change?  Why do we need to make it?  What are the options?  Why is this the timeline? etc.)
  • For each key milestone, identify what needs to happen, when, where, why, who and how.
  • Communicate deadlines and due dates with enough time for people to respond.
  • Set a time for response (i.e. "we see no impact to our area") so people know what is expected.
  • Follow-up on promised actions and let all stakeholders know what happened. 
  • Keep detailed meeting minutes and distribute to all stakeholders.
  • Keep project documents in a central place where all stakeholders can access them and let stakeholders know where that is. In corporate environments, electronic documents should be stored on a shared network drive if possible.  

Identifying Stakeholders

Stakeholders are people with a business interest in your project.  Here is a list of key stakeholders or groups on a typical IT project with typical tasks and responsibilities that fall into each role. 

Executive Sponsor
  • Has ultimate authority over the project
  • Signs off on project charter
  • Assigns Sponsor
  • Provides or helps obtain the project's funding
  • Champions the project with executive staff
  • Sets high level expectations and goals for the project
  • Signs and publishes the Project Charter
  • Reviews progress and quality
  • Cuts through red tape and expedites activities when needed
  • Helps manage risks 
  • Helps manage expectations.
  • Has day-to-day authority over the project
  • Helps develop Project Charter
  • Signs off on all planning documents and change requests
  • Helps identify risks and develop risk mitigation strategies
  • Provides team with resources
  • Champions and mentors the team and project manager
  • Reviews progress and quality regularly
  • Cuts through red tape and expedites activities when needed
  • Helps resolve conflicts in processes, resources, deadlines and project scope
  • Helps manage expectations.
Customers (Internal Customers and/or External Customers)
  • Take delivery of the project output
  • Pay for the project output
  • Provide specifications for project output
  • May be multiple individuals or programs, with conflicting requirements and specifications
  • May be technical individuals representing the customer’s interests
  • Help identify risks and develop risk mitigation strategies.
Functional Managers / Program Area Managers / Business Managers
  • Impacted by project activities or project outcome
  • Contribute resources to the project (people, budget, time, equipment, etc.)
  • May have conflicting requirements for project outcome
  • Project manager's manager may be included in this group
  • Help identify risks and develop risk mitigation strategies
  • Helps resolve conflicts in processes, resources, deadlines and project scope.
Project Manager
  • Solicits stakeholder involvement and input
  • Keeps stakeholders  and stakeholder groups informed
  • Works with stakeholders to define the project
  • Plans, schedules, and budgets project activities
  • Makes assignments and assures accountability for all tasks
  • Works with team to carry out plans
  • Monitors performance and takes corrective action
  • Keeps sponsor and stakeholders informed
  • Requests and documents scope changes
  • Acts as liaison between stakeholders and project team
  • Helps identify risks and plans risk mitigation strategies
  • Negotiates conflicts in processes, resources, time and scope.
Project Team Members
  • Assigned based on ability to handle specific project activities
  • May include internal and external resources
  • Interface with sponsor and other stakeholders through project manager
  • Help identify risks and develop risk mitigation strategies
  • Keep customers and others in working group informed of project progress.
Project Support Staff
  • Administrative / secretarial support staff
  • Technical support staff (e.g., engineers, computer technicians, marketing, public relations, sales, product developers, specialized trades, specialized knowledge workers, etc.)
  • Business area support staff (e.g., clerks, analysts, etc.).

Sample stakeholder groups for IT Projects 

  • Executive Sponsor
  • Project sponsors
  • Steering Committee
  • Management/Executive Staff
  • Program Area/Business Managers and staff
  • Customers (internal and external) 
  • Customer groups
  • Customer representatives
  • Specialized customer support groups
  • Special program groups/special interest groups
  • Public Affairs
  • Legal staff
  • Business Area Liaisons
  • Field/Regional Service Locations
  • Project Managers
  • Workgroups
  • IS Management
  • IS / Application Managers and programming staff
  • IS / Change Control / Change Management managers and staff
  • IS / Design and Engineering managers and staff
  • IS / Help Desk managers and staff
  • IS / Network Operations/Support managers and staff
  • Program/Project Office managers and staff
  • Distributed IT managers and staff
  • Webmasters (internal and external webs)
  • Administrative support staff
  • Technical support staff.

Benefits of Keeping Stakeholders Involved

A successful project depends on many things:

  People (customers, team members, managers, executives)

  Resources (financial resources, physical resources, schedules, products, supplies, vendors)

  Rewards (benefits to be gained, savings to be achieved, new products to be built, new markets to be opened, new opportunities to be explored)

  Risks (risk of remaining the same, risk of changing, outside factors, unknowns, mitigation of risks).

To make a project successful means balancing many different aspects, constantly monitoring progress and status, and keeping stakeholders involved.

When stakeholdering is done successfully, those stakeholders take on some of the responsibility for making the project successful.  They become the champions of their project for their co-workers.  They help train their co-workers, assist with changing internal procedures, provide early warning reports for things that might not work, help provide insights into other ways of approaching problems, and so much more.

When stakeholdering is not done successfully, those stakeholders become more problems to deal with, generate higher risks for the project and impede the successful flow of events because of their lack of awareness, lack of buy-in/agreement to the project's goals and resistance to the proposed changes. 

Therefore, smart project managers recognize that one of the very first things to be done on any project is to accurately identify stakeholders and develop methods/strategies for keeping them informed and actively involved in the project.

In any project, there tend to be 3 groups of people: 

  1. Those who are always out in front, who like to be first, who like to experiment or who like to be on the leading/bleeding edge of anything.
  2. Those who wait for the first group to work out the kinks, then they are ready and willing to move forward.
  3. Those who will resist any change, complain about how everything is being done too fast and those who need more time to adjust to changes.

In identifying stakeholders, it is critical to identify those people who will be in the 3rd group and assign someone to work with them very early in the project.  That way, they have more time to adjust.  If this this not done, they can easily sabotage a project by not being ready when their help is needed.

It is also important to identify people who fit into the first group.  These people can become the "super users," the "subject matter experts" (SMEs), the people who participate in pilot testing and those who like to be involved in the design of a new system.

Everyone else falls into the middle group.

While this article gives examples for IT projects, the same principles apply to any new effort, initiative or public problem.  They apply to homeowner associations, public policy groups seeking change, elected officials seeking consensus, environmental groups seeking changes, companies planning to reorganize or any effort that will affect a group of people. 

World Wide Web graphic  Internet Resources

book graphic  Books   -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.

  • Achieving Post-Merger Success: A Stakeholder's Guide to Cultural Due Diligence, Assessment, and Integration, J. Robert Carleton and Claude Lineberry.   Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 2004.  ISBN: 0-7879-6490-5
  • Leave the Office Earlier, Laura Stack.  Random House, 2004.  ISBN 0-7679-1626-3
  • The Stakeholder Society, Anne Alstott and Bruce A. Ackerman.  Yale University Press, 2000.  
    ISBN 0-3000-8260-6

world wide web - articles  Articles

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  

"Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike." -- Alexander Hamilton, statesman

About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.  We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

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