What is a stakeholder?

Stakeholders are the groups, units, individuals, or organizations, internal or external to our organization, which are impacted by, or can impact, the outcomes of the project/program. Primary stakeholders are a subset of stakeholders who, if their support were to be withdrawn, would cause the project/program to fail because they are directly affected by the resulting changes of the project/program.

How do I define who the stakeholders are, and how do I use this information?

Stakeholders will include sponsor(s), project manager(s), program manager(s), subject matter expert(s), project team members, customers, plus a number of other people or groups, depending on the project/program.

A project/program should begin with a stakeholder analysis, as early as possible, to identify who the stakeholders are, their attitude towards the project/program (resistant, neutral, supportive), their influence towards the end result (the most influential have the desire and ability to affect steps in project/program management and the final outcome of the project/program), and their interest towards the end result.  This analysis can be documented within a chart or document, such as the Stakeholder Register and/or illustrated through a stakeholder matrix (stakeholders are mapped within four quadrants of a graph with high/low influence on one axis and high/low interest on the other axis).

Once the project/program manager and project team have analyzed the stakeholders in this manner, an appropriate strategy for communication and managing stakeholder expectations can be created and executed, especially for the primary stakeholders.

The stakeholder analysis should be monitored for any changes throughout execution of the project/program.

What are the project/program team’s responsibilities to the stakeholders? 

Stakeholders have a number of rights that should be respected during project/program execution.  For an IT project/program, stakeholders have the right to expect:

  • The project/program team to learn about and represent their business and objectives
  • The project/program team to identify and understand their requirements, and be provided with the opportunity to adjust requirements when applicable
  • Appropriate communication mechanisms, allowing them to provide feedback and stay up to date with project/program activities
  • To be treated with respect
  • To receive a deliverable that meets their functional and quality needs
  • To be provided with good-faith estimates and timelines
  • To be included in the project/program, relevant to their influence and impact

What are the primary stakeholder responsibilities? 

Project/program stakeholders are comprised of a number of specific roles pertaining to the project/program (such as sponsor, project team, project manager, program manager), as well as persons or groups that may not already be part of the project/program team.  Stakeholder responsibilities include those identified for the role the stakeholder group plays on the project/program, if they have a direct role.  The primary stakeholder responsibilities to the project/program can be summarized and include:

  • Commit and provide appropriate resources to the project/program team, if applicable
  • Educate the project/program team about their business and objectives, ensuring the project/program fits with their business strategy
  • Provide specific, precise requirements, and set requirement priorities
  • Make timely decisions
  • Review and provide timely feedback regarding relevant project/program work
  • Promptly communicate changes to requirements
  • Ownership of business processes and procedures, and project/program deliverables
  • Keep informed of project/program progress, and send information to others who need to know
  • Assist in establishing and executing training
  • Approve key project/program deliverables, if applicable, including final sign off/acceptance  during closure
  • Identify and resolve any project/program issues and risks