What is a Stakeholder?


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What is a stakeholder? A stakeholder is either an individual, group or organization who is impacted by the outcome of a project. They have an interest in the success of the project, and can be within or outside the organization that is sponsoring the project. Stakeholders can have a positive or negative influence on the project.

There are a lot of people involved in getting a project from inception to a successful completion. You’re going to have to know how to manage each and everyone one of them, even those who don’t work directly under you. One such person is the project stakeholder.

A stakeholder is a person, like any other member of the project, and some will be easier to manage than others. You’re going to have to learn to deal with a variety of personalities and make sure you’re having a productive dialogue with them to know the project goals you’ve been hired to meet. But first, who is the stakeholder?

learn what a project stakeholder is and how to manage one

Identifying the Right Project Stakeholder

Now that we basically know what a stakeholder is, the next thing you need to do is identify who they are in your project. First, who can be a stakeholder? That’s a long list. Some examples are as follows.

Project Management Software for Managing Stakeholders
  • Project leader
  • Senior management
  • Project team members
  • Project customer
  • Resource managers
  • Line managers
  • Project user group
  • Product testers
  • Group impacted by the project as it progresses
  • Group impacted by the project after its completion
  • Subcontractors to the project
  • Consultants to the project

Identifying who the stakeholders are in your project is key. The project’s success depends on it. If your stakeholder isn’t happy, then the project is not a complete success. So, you want to start this process as soon as the project charter has been created.

Related: Free Project Charter Template

A good place to start figuring out who your stakeholders are is by reviewing the project charter, which documents the reason for the project and appoints the project manager. Among the information about objects, budget, schedule, assumptions and constraints, project sponsor and top management, you can discern the stakeholders.

Also, review the contracts, as stakeholders might be mentioned in these documents. Are there environmental factors or other organizations with key ties to the project? Look those over too, as they might supply you with the names of stakeholders. For example, if there are environmental factors dictated by the government, then the government is a stakeholder. Review their regulations and standards to stay in good terms with them.

Managing the Stakeholder

A key question for anyone managing a project is how should you manage a stakeholder on the project? To complicate matters, there might be many stakeholders in your project. You should treat them like you would any other task on your to-do list: by prioritizing them. Over the course of a project, one stakeholder might be more valuable in terms of the project objections than another, whereas some stakeholders might demand more attention than others. So, you want to define who those people are and at what point in the project phase you might need to attend to them more, and build that into your schedule.

Related: What is Stakeholder Theory?

Now we’ve come to the second part of our question, which we’ve already started answering in the above paragraph. When we talk of stakeholder management what we mean is creating a positive relationship with your stakeholders by meeting their expectations and whatever objectives they agreed to in the project. This relationship isn’t just granted, however. It must be earned. You can earn the trust and build a positive relationship with stakeholders through proactive communication and by listening to their needs.

One way to do this is by interviewing the project stakeholders—not all of them, but certainly the most important ones. You might need to speak to experts to get the background you need for particular fields or groups, so when you do have one-on-one conversations with the stakeholders, you’re well-informed and ready to get the most out of that time together.

But know that stakeholders aren’t infallible. Like we noted earlier, their impact can be negative as well as positive. Stakeholders might have inaccurate or out-of-date information. That’s where your stakeholder management part comes into play. You want to vet any data stakeholders give you as true and accurate so that you don’t make key project decisions based on the agendas of others.

There is a process for this, like there is a process for everything in project management:

  • Document Stakeholder Communications. Do this formally in your project plan. Note their names and their roles in the organization they represent. Document every conversation you have with these key project partners, both to record their interests and requests, but also to be able to review their information later for accuracy. If you’re conducting interviews, ask the stakeholders if you can record those conversations, as any record of interaction is important to document.
  • Enforce Process. Next you want to keep to a process of communications with stakeholders, and make sure that process is transparent, so everyone knows what to expect. This includes project requests or feedback, and how you will document and respond to those requests needs to be subject to a formal process of review and approval. This lets the stakeholders know that requests are subject to review, and that you have a process that you adhere to for those formal requests. This protects both parties from scope changes and mis-communications that can impact the project.
  • Provide Frequent Status Reports. Providing regular and timely status reports that are appropriate for the stakeholders is crucial. You can go into details with team members, while executives are going to want more of an overview. So, tailor the reports to the audience. Don’t forget to follow up with stakeholders as well, asking questions to see if they have any feedback. That way you’re managing them, and you’re communicating with them proactively, to know if there’s discontent or some decision has been made that will impact the project. Dashboards in ProjectManager.com, provide real time data so you’re stakeholders are always aware of the latest action.
status dashboard for stakeholders
Dashboards in ProjectManager.com show project status in real time.
  • Dispel Myths. Your stakeholder might be working on multiple projects, which means they’re not going to have the same closeness to the project as you. But that doesn’t mean they’re not getting other information about your project from other sources. You don’t want them to be subject to gossip or get incorrect information that might sway their opinions in the project. If they do make an assumption or get misinformation, you have to nip that poison in the bud and provide them with the truth. Sometimes they might not want to hear that truth, but better it comes from you, so you can control and manage it.

Executing the Project

Now you know what a stakeholder is, how to identify and manage them, but that is a process that must be carried through the entire life cycle of the project. You might have missed an important stakeholder in your initial research, and now you have a new person who is integral to the successful completion of the project. Worse, you can’t manage who you don’t know.

Related: Stakeholder vs Shareholder: How They’re Different & Why It Matters

Therefore, it’s important to stay in constant contact with your stakeholders, as we suggested, and not only to know what they want. You can find out if there are new people who are in a position to influence the project. Get to know them, too. Things are always changing, and you have to manage that change or else you threaten the success of the project.

How ProjectManager.com Helps Stakeholders

Now that you know what a stakeholder is, and you know the importance of keeping them in the loop during the project, ProjectManager.com is here to help make this the start of a beautiful friendship. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that provides the bridge between the project and its stakeholders.

High-Level Progress Updates

Stakeholders want data, but they don’t want to get lost in the weeds of a project. Those deep dives are crucial for project managers and their teams, but stakeholders only want the broad strokes. ProjectManager.com has a real-time dashboard that collects information as it’s reported. That data is crunched and displayed in easy-to-read charts and graphs that track six project metrics to keep stakeholders informed on progress.

Roadmaps for Context

The project plan is the roadmap that charts the direction of the project. It’s a critical document and one that is changing throughout the project. Stakeholders will need the project plan to keep the project’s progress in context. Therefore, project managers want an easy-to-share project plan. ProjectManager.com can import and export project plans and share them with anyone. As the project plan changes, just send an updated one to your stakeholders and keep them in the loop.

Gantt chart screenshot in ProjectManager.com
Gantt charts provide a roadmap for stakeholders and highlight phases and milestones—Try It Free

Detailed Reports for Meetings

Stakeholder presentations run smoothly with ProjectManager.com. While the dashboard gives the big picture, stakeholders often want to get further details. ProjectManager.com has one-click reporting that can generate the reports stakeholders want to see. If they have questions, no problem. The reports can be filtered to show cost management or just the data they want.

status report software in ProjectManager.com
Make project reports with just a few clicks, and customize them to get what you need—Try It Free

Automate When Needed

ProjectManager.com also can automate a lot of your busywork. For example, you can automate email notifications, so stakeholders are kept updated on status reports. ProjectManager.com gives stakeholders the transparency they want to feel informed, which gives the project manager and project team the room they need to complete the project on time, within budget and to stakeholder’s quality expectations.

When you’re reporting to stakeholders you want to make sure the process is both streamlined and accurate. ProjectManager.com makes sharing reports easy as a click of a button. Our cloud-based project management software updates in real time, so you always have the most accurate, up-to-date project data for yourself and your stakeholders. Try our award-winning software today with this 30-day free trial. 

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