Regular readers will know that stakeholders are a big part of my essential project management rules. So, Stakeholder Analysis is a vital Project Management activity. It is how you learn about and understand your project stakeholders.
So, it is high time we gave you one of our comprehensive ‘how to…’ articles on the subject of stakeholder analysis. So, buckle up for a big read, because here is everything you need to know – and some more – about stakeholder analysis.
What is Stakeholder Analysis?
Let’s start with the basics.
A stakeholder is anyone who has any interest in what you are doing
Stakeholder analysis is a stage in your stakeholder engagement process.
By the way, we used to talk more about ‘stakeholder management’. But nowadays, that terminology is fading away. The PMI has made its announcements about the 6th Edition of its PMBoK. They tell us that it will be swapping to the terminology of Stakeholder Engagement. And about time too, I say.
You may like to watch this short video from our YouTube series, Project Management in Under 5
Stakeholder Analysis is One Step in the Stakeholder Engagement Process
Stakeholder engagement has five steps.
The Five Steps of Stakeholder Engagement
- Identify who your stakeholders are
- Analyse your stakeholders to gain insights
- Plan how you will engage with them to meet your objectives
- Act on your plans, and handle any resistance you encounter
- Review progress and re-engage to make further progress
In this article, we shall confine ourselves to looking in depth at Step 2.
There are Three Parts to Stakeholder Analysis
Stakeholder Analysis: Do You Know the Top 20 Techniques
Part 1: Stakeholder Triage
This is a simple sorting process. It will assess the priorities and principal strategies you will apply to each stakeholder or stakeholder group. Because it is simple, it just represents one of our 20 techniques.
Part 2: Detailed Stakeholder Analysis
The clue to this is in the name we’ve given this stage. This is where the bulk of our 20 techniques lie. We shall cover:
- 4 Components of the detailed analysis framework
- 4 Questions to ask, about your stakeholders
- 6 Tools to use to help wth your analysis
- 4 Ways to gather information for your analysis
Part 3: Resource Availability
We must not forget this. Your analysis must also take account of the project team’s capacity and capability to plan and carry out stakeholder engagement.
Part 1: Stakeholder Triage
Stakeholder triage is the first stage of your analysis. A triage is a sorting process. You use a small number of essential characteristics, to sort a set of stakeholders into a few meaningful categories.
The most commonly used characteristics are:
- Interest (in your project)
- Power (to affect your project)
However, I recommend two different characteristics:
- Attitude (to your project)
This can be supportive or antagonistic… or possibly neutral
- Potential Impact (upon your project)
This can arise from formal power, or informal influence
Both approaches create four categories. For each category, you have a standard strategy.
It is best to illustrate these, with the diagrams below.
The ‘Standard’ Stakeholder Map
The Stakeholder Triage
Part 2: Detailed Stakeholder Analysis
Stakeholder triage will give you two things quickly:
- A rough and ready assessment of the priority of each stakeholder
- An indication of your primary strategy for engaging with each stakeholder
However, a rigorous prioritization, and detailed plans for stakeholder engagement need more information. You need to conduct a detailed stakeholder analysis.
Four Components of the Detailed Stakeholder Analysis Framework
The more carefully you analyse your stakeholders, the more you will be able to precisely focus your engagement. This will mean you will be better able to achieve the outcomes you want.
For my book, The Influence Agenda
), I developed a stakeholder analysis framework with four components:
1. Understanding the nature of their stake
This is about asking ‘what is their agenda?’
You’ll be thinking about things like needs, desires, interests, and rights.
2. Understanding the intensity of their stake
This is about how strong their interest is in your project. It will be closely linked to how you choose to prioritize them. But it is better to think of this aspect as being about their salience, or relevance.
You’ll be considering things like legitimacy, power, network, influence, commitment, and attitude.
3. Understanding their background and attitudes
This component will help you devise effective tactics for engaging each stakeholder. It is about how they tick.
You’ll want to asses things like their history, opinions, preferences, expectations, and motivations.
4. Additional factors that you need to assess, for stakeholder groups
Stakeholders that form groups need some additional considerations. These will help you understand how the group operates.
You’ll want to ask about internal dynamics, key players, factions, and connections.
* The Influence Agenda, A Systematic Approach to Aligning Stakeholders in Times of Change is published by Palgrave Macmillan (2014). You can read more about it, and download resources, at: mikeclayton.co.uk/books/the-influence-agenda/
Four Questions to Ask, about Your Stakeholders
We’re going to ask four basic questions about our stakeholders, to better understand them. You can probably guess what they are. But, in case you can’t:
- Who are they?
… and who are they connected with?
- What do we need from them?
… and what do they want from us?
And also, what resources do they command?
- How is it best to communicate with them?
… in both directions
- What if…
What are the risks they pose, and what opportunities do they offer you?
Six Tools to use to help wth Your Stakeholder Analysis
I love tools. Whether you are doing carpentry or project management:
Getting just the right tool for the job means less wasted time and more precise work. So, that’s why all our courses
are stuffed full of tools.
So, let’s take a look at six tools will help you with your stakeholder analysis.
This is a tool that we looked at in our previous article on Project Politics
. We use it to chart how your stakeholders interact and what alliances there are. So, it’ll help you see who are the powerful political players. And also, which individuals cross groups and link them together. You can also see the outliers, who don’t have a lot of political influence.
We also looked at this tool in our article on Project Politics
. It helps you understand how close each stakeholder is to the heart of your project. You can also extend it to chart the primary attitudes of your stakeholders. And you can even add in their level of influence. It is a flexible tool, that can extend the mapping of your quick triage in different ways.
This tool offers a simple way to visualize stakeholder forces in your project. Supporters and opposers push your project in different directions, and with different strength. Use arrows of different thickness to show increasing strength of influence or formal power. If you count the arrows, you can gauge the levels of support and opposition. Or, better, count the the bars on the arrows.
You can also include:
- Neutrals, who have no strong opinion,
- Floating voters, who have yet to make up their minds.
Stakeholder Force-field Analysis
This is a tool for large, long-term projects and for organizations that do a lot of projects with the same set of stakeholders.
You may want to create a record for each stakeholder that contains all your information about that stakeholder. That’s a lot of work, and you can get a head start by using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software tool.
A little less work is to lift an idea from the marketing industry. represent ‘typical’ examples of each type of stakeholder by a ‘persona’
. So, for example, you may have local residents, the factory inspector, the accounts department, and so on, as stakeholders. A persona is a description of a ‘typical’ resident, a ‘typical’ factory inspector, and so on.
Give each persona a personality and ascribe to them relevant information about interests, behaviors, motivations, and preferences. Store them on index cards or in an online document. As you build up your profile, you can use it as a tool to help you target your communications effectively.
The ultimate stakeholder engagement tool is a stakeholder register. This is to stakeholder engagement what your risk register is to risk management. it is a repository for all information about each stakeholder. It also includes records of your strategy, communication plans, actions and outcomes.
Use a stakeholder register where you have a lot of stakeholders to track, across a long campaign.
Stakeholder Strategy Planner
This is a simple tool that bridges between the basic analysis of your stakeholders, and your communications planning. Create a simple table and, for each stakeholder, record:
- What you want or need from them
- What you think they want or need from you
- Key elements of their background and interests
- Your assessment of their attitude and potential impact on the project
- The strategy you will adopt to engaging with them
Four Ways to Gather Information for Your Stakeholder Analysis
This is all very well, you say. But how do we find out about our stakeholders?
Here are four ways you can do this. The first two are methods you can use within your team. They tap into implicit knowledge that you already have.
To go further, you need to start the process of engaging with your stakeholders. So, we offer two further techniques for gathering information, that do just that.
Stakeholder Analysis Workshop
This is the basic approach. Gather your team together and make use of their collective knowledge. Your workshop will probably cover both the Identification and Analysis stages, and may also start work on planning.
Whilst I dedicated four pages of The Influence Agenda
) to this, it can be easily summed up with a sample agenda:
To help your team gain insights into stakeholders, you can do mini role plays. Ask one or two members of the team to put themselves into the shoes of your stakeholder. Then get other members of the team to ask them questions and put scenarios to them. Ask your ‘virtual’
stakeholders to respond as if they were those stakeholders, with their interests and attitudes.
The lowest effort approach to gathering information from stakeholders is questionnaires. But don’t treat this lightly. If your questionnaire is one of the first pieces of communication they receive from your project, it can color their whole perception of you.
There are plenty of low cost web-based tools that make it straightforward to give your questionnaire a professional look. Perhaps the best known is Survey Monkey. At OnlinePMCourses, we love Typeform. Google forms is another, lower-functionality but totally free, option. All have a free tier of service, and allow a lot of customization. This means you can concentrate your effort on devising the best possible questions.
Keep the number of questions to the absolute minimum. Always ask:
If we get an answer to this question, how will we use the information?
Stakeholder Meetings and Interviews
What is the gold standard for gathering information and understanding your stakeholders?
It is a one-to-one meeting.
Ideally, you should use a structured agenda. This will ensure that you get the best balance of:
- Introductions and context-setting
- Relationship building
- Asking the important questions
- Getting the facts you need
- Allowing dialogue and answering questions from your stakeholder
- Leaving them with a point of contact
Sample Stakeholder Meeting Agenda
- Introductions and relationship building
- Purpose of the meeting
- Background to project
- The Project
- Ask an open question about general attitude to project
- Follow up with specific points raised
- Specific Questions
- Ask specific questions you need answers for
- Follow-up to clarify details
- Stakeholder’s questions
- Invite their questions for you, and answer them
- Summarise what you believe are the stakeholder’s primary points and concerns
- Check they are happy with your summary
- Set out next steps and responsibilities
- Ask: ‘Is there anything I did not ask you about, that I need to know?’
- Give your card or contact details
- Thank them for their time and co-operation
After the meeting, follow up with polite thank-you message, and any steps you agreed to.
Of course, larger stakeholder groups can work too: stakeholder forums, and focus groups. These take even more preparation. But the pay-off is the efficiency with which one meeting can, potentially, achieve your objectives across many stakeholders in one go.
Part 3: Resource Availability
The last of our 20 techniques for stakeholder analysis turns inwards.
Make a list of the resources you have available. And consider the capabilities within your team. Matching these to your stakholders is a key to success. For team members, think about:
- background and connections
- experience and skills
Often, finding the right person on your team to pair off against a specific, tricky stakeholder can mean the difference between failure and success. And sometimes this pairing can boil down to something as simple as:
- children of the same age
- shared sporting interest
- same professional background
- and here’s a good one: similar name!
What is your Experience of Stakeholder Analysis?
We are always keen to hear your experiences…
And your questions.
So, please do contribute your comments below, and we’ll gladly respond to every one of them.