In Project Management, there is nothing more important than understanding your project’s stakeholders. And Stakeholder Analysis is is how we do it. But too many project managers have a narrow repertoire of tools. They deploy the same few every time.
So, it is high time we gave you one of our comprehensive ‘how to…’ articles on the subject of stakeholder analysis.
Because it’s easy to get to 20 techniques that you could deploy. There may be nothing wrong with your regular, go-to stakeholder analysis tool. But, choosing a better way to analyze your stakeholders will deepen your insight. And the more choices you have, the better the chance you’ll pick a good one for the job.
So, buckle up for a big read, because here is everything you need to know – and some more – about stakeholder analysis.
Regular readers will know that stakeholders are a big part of my essential project management rules.Rule 6: Stakeholders will determine the success, or not, of your #Project. Click To Tweet
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 rightly is fading away. Trying to ‘manage’ your stakeholders is, frankly, rude. Your job is to engage with them in a respectful way.
When the PMI made its announcements about the 6th Edition of its PMBOK Guide, they told us they would be swapping to the terminology of Stakeholder Engagement. Yet the Knowledge Area remained ‘Stakeholder Management’. That’s lame, and I suspect it was so that it matched all the others. Let’s hope the radically new 7th Edition will do better!
You may like to watch this short video from our YouTube series, Project Management in Under 5.
Stakeholder engagement has five steps.
Here is a short video, to explain these five steps…
This article is part of a series of articles about Stakeholder Engagement. If you need to study the topic, they will give you everything you need to know for a thorough understanding.
Then, you may also want to check out:
And, some additional content, to stretch your thinking:
In this article, we shall confine ourselves to looking in depth at Step 2.
And we shall look at techniques for analyzing your stakeholders in each one.
You can click the links to jump to the set of stakeholder analysis tools that interests you.
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.
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:
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.
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:
However, I recommend two different characteristics:
Both approaches create four categories. For each category, you have a standard strategy.
It is best to illustrate these, with the diagrams below.
Stakeholder triage will give you two things quickly:
However, a rigorous prioritization, and detailed plans for stakeholder engagement need more information. You need to conduct a detailed stakeholder analysis.
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.
This is about asking ‘what is their agenda?’
You’ll be thinking about things like needs, desires, interests, and rights.
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.
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.
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/
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?
What do we need from them?
How is it best to communicate with them?
I love tools. Whether you are doing carpentry or project management:The more tools you have, the more likely you'll have just the one you need Click To Tweet
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
After our 20 Stakeholder analysis techniques, our analysis turns inwards. We need to think about how we can deploy our team and its resources to engage productively with our stakeholders.
Make a list of the resources you have available. And consider the capabilities within your team. Matching these to your stakeholders is a key to success. For team members, think about:
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:
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.
And finally, here are 5 Stakeholder Engagement Tips:
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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