Whether it’s a complex or even a simple project or any piece of work for that matter there will be people who are interested in it to one degree or another. These people are your stakeholders. But what are stakeholders? Stakeholders come in all shapes and sizes and the level of interest they have in your piece of work, or maybe you would like them to have in your piece of work, is one way to categorize them. Their ability to influence your work either positively or adversely is another way of categorizing them.
Who Are Your Stakeholders?
Understanding your stakeholders requires that you know who they are in the first place. Anyone who has an interest in, either directly or indirectly, the successful completion of your piece of work or project is a stakeholder. Those people or groups and companies who are closely involved are obvious but others who maybe don’t have any direct contact with your work in other parts of your organization may well be a stakeholder too.
For people you also need to read group, department or company as it may not be a particular individual you can identify at this stage. One group of stakeholders that can often be forgotten is customers, the whole reason why your work is being undertaken in the first place.
Where Are Your Stakeholders?
The simple answer to this question is they fall into two groups; those that are internal to your company or organization and those that are external to it. Actually where you draw the boundary is not important in identifying stakeholders, it merely helps in the thought process of ensuring you have identified them to start with. Where it becomes more important is in how you communicate with your stakeholders as there may be organizational requirements overlaid on you for interacting with external stakeholders.
Why Should You Be Interested in Stakeholders?
Put simply, if you aren’t then there is a strong possibility that one of the more influential stakeholders will cause you problems and potentially prevent you from succeeding in your piece of work or project.
So, having identified them you need to determine which ones are likely to be supportive of your work, advocates even, and which ones may block or delay you. One way of bringing this all together is in the form of a Stakeholder Mapping, a simple two-by-two matrix of Power (ability to support or de-rail your work) verses Interest (in your work) each scored Low to High. A project sponsor who controls the budget will naturally have both high power and interest whereas an individual within an unrelated department is likely to have low power and low interest.
Having identified your stakeholders and where they sit and their level of interest has been mapped then comes the ‘So What?’. Now that you know all this information what do you do with it?