Project Communications Planning: Stakeholder Identification

Project Communications Planning: Stakeholder Identification

If you’re going to analyze your stakeholders, or even just take them to lunch, you need to know who they are first. After deciding on the goal of your communication plan, the next step is to identify the stakeholders.

I’ve seen plenty of writers simply suggest brainstorming orasking around as the primary way of identifying stakeholders. Both of these will work to an extent, and are not to be left out, but I find myself hungering for a bit more detail. After all, we’re after Prowess, not adequacy, right?

Unknown stakeholders are unlikely to appear in brainstorming because, well, they are unknown, not in the brain to be stormed at all. Likewise, asking around can leave gaps because your knowledge of who to ask is going to be limited and those you ask are not all-knowing either.

There’s a way to identify stakeholders that’s well worth using. Take the following steps from Dr. James T. Brown, author of “The Handbook of Program Management,” quoted on Brighthub.com (boldface is mine):

  • Follow the money! Whoever is paying is definitely a stakeholder. Also, if the program produces savings or additional costs for an organization then the organization is also a stakeholder
  • Follow the resources. Every entity that provides resources, whether internal or external, labor or facilities, and equipment, is a stakeholder. Line managers and functional managers providing resources are stakeholders
  • Follow the deliverables. whoever is the recipient of the product or service the program is providing is a stakeholder.
  • Follow the signatures. The individual who signs off on completion of the final product or service (or phases thereof) is a stakeholder. Note: this may or may not be the recipient referred to in the previous bullet. Often there may be more recipients than signatories.
  • Examine other programs stakeholder lists. Include active programs and completed projects.
  • Review the organizational chart to asses which parts of the organization may be stakeholders.
  • Ask team members, customers, and any other confirmed stakeholder to help you identify additional stakeholders.
  • Look for the “Unofficial People of Influence“. These may be people who are trusted by high-level leaders or who wield a lot of power through influence and not position.

Dr. Brown’s list mentions asking already, so once you’ve worked your way through his steps, chart your results and get your team together for a brainstorming session to see if you can identify any other stakeholders. Overkill? That depends on how thorough you need to be and you’re the best judge of that.

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