Identifying Stakeholders


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Stakeholder management involves everything necessary to control relationships with all the individuals a program has an impact on or affects to ensure the achievement of the program’s objectives. One of the primary concerns for any program manager should be to identify stakeholders and stakeholder management, as it is an ongoing process that is never completed.

Our Guide to Stakeholder Management walks you through this critical process:

Part 1 of 6: Identifying Stakeholders
Part 2 of 6: Assess the Stakeholders’ Power
Part 3 of 6: Build Stakeholder Relationships
Part 4 of 6: Build Relationships Among Stakeholders
Part 5 of 6: Communication Strategies for Stakeholders
Part 6 of 6: Lead the Stakeholders

Part 1 of 6: Identifying Stakeholders

The program manager needs to identify stakeholders connected with the program and its supporting projects. William Congreve may have said, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” but program managers need to remember, “Hell hath no fury like a stakeholder scorned.” It is important to also realize that a stakeholder isn’t always a person. Often an organization has to be represented, in which case the organization as a whole is the stakeholder. Even when the stakeholder is more than one person, the program manager should work to obtain single-point accountability for each stake-holding organization. Additionally, the accountable person should have the power (or be delegated the power) to make decisions in his or her stakeholder role. In this regard, smart program managers use their influence to select stakeholder representatives who are easy to work with.

To fully identify stakeholders, use the following guidelines:

  • Follow the money! Whoever is paying is definitely a stakeholder. Also, if the program produces savings or additional costs for an organization, 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 who provide 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 completed phases of the product or service 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 assess which parts of the organization may be stakeholders.
  • Ask team members, customers, and any other confirmed stakeholders to help you identify additional stakeholders.
  • Look for unofficial people of influence. These may be people who are trusted by high-level leaders or who wield a lot of power through influence, not position.

The goal of following these guidelines is to fully identify stakeholders connected to the project. Some of your stakeholders may play major roles, whereas others may have minor roles and little or no interest or interaction. Regardless of size or role, every stakeholder’s needs must be assessed, and you cannot meet the needs of a stakeholder you have not identified. As a program manager, you must ensure that every project manager supporting the program has identified all the stakeholders for his or her project and that the project managers are aware of the stakeholders that exist at the program level.

The program-level view is important for stakeholder management, because often several project managers may share several stakeholders. In such cases, everyone needs to apply sound and strategic judgment, as you do not want to burden or overwhelm stakeholders by making them deal with multiple project managers. To avoid headaches, decide at the program level whether you need to assign a lead person to be the stakeholders’ main point of contact. In some cases this contact person may be the program manager, and in other cases it may be the project manager who has the predominant workload with that stakeholder. Or it may be the project manager who previously established good rapport and a strong relationship with the stakeholder. Whoever it is, the program should speak with a single voice so that in cases in which stakeholders must deal with multiple program representatives, program coordination takes place before stakeholder coordination.

Stakeholder management involves building effective relationships and constant communication to keep programs on track and successful. WorkOtter helps you keep stakeholders informed of important project status and build collaboration between those involved in the program. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can help you build your stakeholder relationships.

“The Handbook of Program Management: How to Facilitate Project Success with Optimal Program Management, Second Edition” by James T. Brown is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. Purchase the book on Amazon.