Project stakeholders: Definitions, roles, and management

Project Stakeholders Definitions Roles and Management

Ever wondered who those people are who seem invested in your project, even if they’re not directly doing the work? 

They’re called project stakeholders, and understanding them is crucial for success. 

In this article, you will learn everything about project stakeholders- who they are, what they do, and how to manage them. Understanding their roles and needs is vital for smooth sailing toward project success.

Whether you’re a seasoned project manager or just starting, this guide offers valuable insights to help you build strong stakeholder relationships, improve communication, and ultimately achieve your project goals.

Who are the project stakeholders?

When we talk about a project, we want to achieve a specific goal. And, the individuals or groups who have an interest in that goal are called project stakeholders. They can be anyone – people working on the project, people affected by the project, or people who have some kind of influence over the project.

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), stakeholders are:

Individuals and organizations who are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected as a result of project execution or successful project completion.

Why are stakeholders important in a project?

Let’s understand the project stakeholders’ importance with an easy example. Think of your project as a team sport. Your stakeholders are like your teammates and coaches. They all have a stake in the game (the project), and their input helps you win!

  • They tell you what they want to achieve (goals).
  • They provide you with resources (money, people, etc.).
  • They warn you about possible problems (risks).
  • They keep everyone on the same page (communication).

If you don’t listen to your teammates and coaches, it’s hard to win the game. The same goes for projects!

By listening to stakeholders and considering their needs, you can keep your project on track, get the resources you need, and avoid problems. In short, stakeholders make sure that a project meets its goals and benefits everyone involved.

So, if you want to complete a project successfully, it’s essential to manage your stakeholders effectively.

Here are a few reasons why stakeholder management is important:

  • Meeting objectives: Stakeholders often have specific needs, requirements, and expectations from the project. By engaging with them, you can make sure that these objectives are clearly defined and aligned with the project’s goals. This alignment boosts the chances of producing outcomes that meet stakeholders’ expectations. This leads to overall project success.
  • Securing resources: Stakeholders control various resources. These resources include financial support, human resources, expertise, and approvals. You should build positive relationships with them and keep them in the loop on your progress. By doing this, you can get the support you need to overcome any obstacles and make your project a success.
  • Minimizing risks: Stakeholders can sometimes cause problems- such as not wanting to change things, having different priorities, and asking for things that you didn’t expect. To avoid conflicts, delays, and disruptions, you can proactively analyze and engage with stakeholders. This will let you identify potential risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By addressing stakeholder issues early on, you can prevent any potential problems.
  • Maintaining communication: To build trust and work well together, you need to communicate openly and honestly with everyone involved in the project. Keep everyone updated regularly on how things are going and any issues you’re facing. If anyone has questions or concerns, make sure to address them right away. By doing this, you can make sure everyone’s expectations are met and avoid any problems down the line.

On the other hand, if you neglect stakeholder management, there will be some negative results. Some of them are as follows:

  • Project delays: If you don’t involve stakeholders or resolve conflicts, it causes delays in decision-making, approvals, or resource allocation. This means it takes longer to finish the project.
  • Budget overruns: If stakeholder needs and priorities are not considered, it leads to unexpected changes in scope, additional requirements, or rework. This results in budget overruns and financial strain on the project.
  • Increased risk of project failure: If stakeholder concerns are ignored, they may withdraw their support. This will jeopardize project funding or trigger resistance. This situation ultimately increases the risk of project failure or termination.

Read more: Don’t let risks hold you back! Check out our guide on the 11 best risk management software!

Type of project stakeholders

You can categorize project stakeholders based on different factors to better understand their roles, influence, and interests in the project.

Level of involvement

  • Internal stakeholders: These stakeholders are directly involved in the project’s planning, execution, or decision-making processes. They typically include project managers, team members, and other employees within your organization who are responsible for delivering the project.
  • External stakeholders: These stakeholders are indirectly involved in the project and may not be part of the organization executing the project. They can be customers, suppliers, regulators, government agencies, community members, or anyone else who might be affected by the project’s outcomes.

Impact on the project

  • Key stakeholders: These stakeholders have the power to make decisions, provide resources and funding, or influence the project’s outcome. Some key stakeholders are project sponsors, top management, major investors, and regulatory bodies. Without their support, your project can face significant hurdles.
  • Peripheral stakeholders: These stakeholders have a relatively lower impact on the project. They are not directly involved in executing the project, but their input and feedback are valuable. These stakeholders include minor investors, members of the local community, or other stakeholders who don’t have much influence over the project outcomes.

Interest in the project

  • Sponsors: These stakeholders provide funding or resources for the project and have decision-making authority. They influence project priorities, scope, and budget.
  • Customers: These are the end-users or beneficiaries of the project’s deliverables, such as products or services. They want the project to meet their needs, expectations, and quality standards.
  • Team members: These stakeholders are directly involved in delivering the project’s objectives. They include project managers, team leads, and individual team members. They all play an important role in executing specific tasks and contributing their expertise, skills, and efforts to achieve project goals.

By categorizing stakeholders based on these criteria, you can better understand their needs, expectations, and how much influence they have. This will help you manage stakeholders more effectively and keep them engaged throughout your project’s lifecycle.

Read more- Stakeholder engagement plan: 5 best practices for building one

Examples of stakeholders in a project

As we have discussed before, there are various types of stakeholders. Let’s take a look at some common project stakeholders examples:

  • Investors: These stakeholders seek financial returns and can include shareholders and debtholders. They’ve invested capital in the business and expect to profit from it.
  • Employees: These stakeholders depend on their jobs and job security, which the organization provides to them. Employees have a direct interest in the organization as it enables them to earn a living and receive benefits.
  • Customers: These stakeholders want to buy the product or service the project provides. They expect the product or service to be of good quality and value.
  • Suppliers and vendors: These stakeholders provide goods and services to the business managing the project. Their income is linked to the project’s success, which means that a successful project could bring more business for them.
  • Communities: These stakeholders care about how a project may affect their health, safety, and economic growth. Organizations operating in their community can influence job opportunities, spending, and other factors.
  • Government: These stakeholders benefit from projects through taxes and contributions to the gross domestic product (GDP). They collect taxes from both the company at a corporate level and from individuals employed by the company. 

How to identify project stakeholders?

Identifying stakeholders in a project is an essential step to make sure the project goes smoothly. Here are some easy steps to help you identify stakeholders:

  • Project charter and documentation: You should review project charters, project plans, and other project documentation. This will help you identify key individuals or groups who are directly or indirectly involved in or impacted by the project.
  • Brainstorming: Conduct brainstorming sessions with project team members, subject-matter experts, and other relevant stakeholders to identify potential stakeholders. During these sessions, consider different perspectives and areas of influence both within and outside the organization.
  • Stakeholder analysis: Conduct a stakeholder analysis. This will help you assess the level of interest, power, and influence of each identified stakeholder. You should categorize your stakeholders into primary stakeholders (directly impacted by the project) and secondary stakeholders (indirectly impacted but still have an interest).
  • Interviews and surveys: Engage in one-on-one interviews or surveys with your project team members, sponsors, clients, and other key individuals. This will help you identify additional stakeholders and gather their insights and expectations.
  • External research: As a manager, you should conduct external research to identify stakeholders who may be affected by the project. This includes industry experts, regulatory bodies, community groups, or other organizations with a vested interest.
  • Stakeholder mapping: Create a stakeholder map or matrix. This matrix will visually represent the stakeholders based on their level of influence and interest in the project. This will help you prioritize stakeholder engagement and communication efforts.
  • Regular reviews and updates: As a manager, you should keep your stakeholder list up-to-date throughout the project. So, continuously review and update the list throughout the lifecycle. New stakeholders may appear, and existing stakeholders’ roles or interests may change over time.

Bonus tips for identifying project stakeholders

  • Use a stakeholder identification tool: There are several stakeholder identification tools, such as templates, available in the market. These tools can help you identify stakeholders and assess their level of influence.
  • Involve the project team: The project team can be a valuable resource for identifying stakeholders. They may have knowledge of the company and the project that you don’t have.
  • Be proactive: Don’t wait for stakeholders to come to you. Be proactive in identifying stakeholders and building relationships with them.

By identifying stakeholders properly, you can ensure effective communication, manage expectations, address concerns, and engage stakeholders appropriately throughout the project. This will increase the chances of project success.

How to manage project stakeholders?

When you are managing a project, one of the most crucial tasks is to manage all the stakeholders involved. It’s like a project within a project, and you can’t afford to make mistakes here.

Here are key principles for effective stakeholder management:

  • Identification: First and foremost, clearly identify all the stakeholders involved in the project.

    This includes anyone who has an interest in the project’s outcomes, whether they are directly or indirectly affected or have an influence on its success.
  • Prioritization: Once the stakeholders are identified, prioritize them based on how much influence and impact they have on your project.

    This way, you can make sure that you give more attention and engagement to stakeholders who have higher levels of influence or impact throughout the entire project.
  • Engagement: The next thing is to keep them involved, informed, and valued throughout the process. To do so, develop a tailored communication plan for each stakeholder group.

    This plan should clearly outline the preferred communication methods, frequency of communication, and desired outcomes.
  • Management: You should actively manage stakeholders by addressing their expectations, concerns, and feedback.

    Also, proactively identify and prevent potential conflicts to maintain a positive project environment. Open and transparent communication can help you manage stakeholder relationships effectively.
  • Evaluation: The final principle is to evaluate the effectiveness of communication strategies. Continuously monitor stakeholder engagement and satisfaction levels.

    If necessary, make adjustments to make sure that your stakeholders are aligned with your goals and feel supported. Regular feedback loops will help you identify areas for improvement and maintain positive relationships with your stakeholders.

By adhering to these key principles, you can mitigate risks and ensure that everyone is on the same page. So, make sure you keep your stakeholders in the loop and work together to achieve your project objectives.

Bring all your stakeholders together with ProofHub

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With its intuitive and user-friendly interface, task management features, and real-time communication, ProofHub makes it easy for you and your team members to stay on the same page and work together towards a common goal.

Plus, with ProofHub’s mobile app, you can access project information from anywhere, ensuring you don’t miss out on important updates.

Overall, ProofHub’s collaborative software helps teams like yours work efficiently and effectively, delivering successful project outcomes on time, every time.

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What is the role of the stakeholders?

There are several roles a stakeholder plays. Some of them include:

  • They offer valuable insights and experience relevant to the project based on their unique perspectives.
  • They provide necessary materials, funding, or access to essential resources for the success of the project.
  • Their buy-in and active support lead to smooth project execution and achieving overall goals.
  • They impact the direction and decision-making process of a project based on their stake and level of influence.

What skills should a project stakeholder have?

The skills required for a project stakeholder depend on the scope of the project. Some of the essential skills are:

  • The ability to communicate effectively and clearly, both when receiving and conveying information.
  • The ability to collaborate with others towards a common goal.
  • The ability to identify and constructively resolve issues that arise during the project.
  • The ability to analyze information and make informed decisions.
  • A basic understanding of the project’s objectives, scope, and terminology.

What are the challenges of working with stakeholders?

Here are some of the common challenges of working with stakeholders:

  • Stakeholders may have different priorities and goals for the project. This leads to conflicts and difficulties in finding common ground.
  • Maintaining clear and consistent communication with all stakeholders can be challenging. Especially when you are dealing with large or dispersed groups.
  • Stakeholders may have unrealistic expectations about the project. This leads to frustration and potential delays.
  • Managing multiple stakeholder demands can strain resources. It makes it difficult to meet everyone’s needs.
  • Some stakeholders may have hidden agendas that don’t align with the project’s overall goals. This requires careful management and negotiation.

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