Stakeholder Analysis
Winning Support for your Projects
"Stakeholder management is critical to the success of every project in every organization I have ever worked with. By engaging the right people in the right way in your project, you can make a big difference to its success... and to your career."

– Rachel Thompson, Experienced Project Manager

As you become more successful in your career, the actions you take and the projects you run will affect more and more people. The more people you affect, the more likely it is that your actions will impact people who have power and influence over your projects. These people could be strong supporters of your work – or they could block it.

Stakeholder Management is an important discipline that successful people use to win support from others. It helps them ensure that their projects succeed where others fail.

There are two major elements to Stakeholder Management: Stakeholder Analysis and Stakeholder Planning. Stakeholder Analysis is the technique used to identify the key people who have to be won over. You then use Stakeholder Planning to build the support that helps you succeed.

The benefits of using a stakeholder-based approach are that:

You can use the opinions of the most powerful stakeholders to shape your projects at an early stage. Not only does this make it more likely that they will support you, their input can also improve the quality of your project.

Gaining support from powerful stakeholders can help you to win more resources – this makes it more likely that your projects will be successful.

By communicating with stakeholders early and often, you can ensure that they know what you are doing and fully understand the benefits of your project – this means they can support you actively when necessary.

You can anticipate what people's reaction to your project may be, and build into your plan the actions that will win people's support.

How to Use the Tool:
The first step in Stakeholder Analysis is to identify who your stakeholders are. The next step is to work out their power, influence and interest, so you know who you should focus on. The final step is to develop a good understanding of the most important stakeholders so that you can work out how to win their support. You record this analysis on a stakeholder map.

After you have used this tool and created a stakeholder map, you can use the stakeholder planning tool to plan how you will communicate with each stakeholder.

The steps of Stakeholder Analysis are explained below:

1. Identifying Your Stakeholders:

The first step in your stakeholder analysis is to brainstorm who your stakeholders are. As part of this, think of all the people who are affected by your work, who have influence or power over it, or have an interest in its successful or unsuccessful conclusion.

The table below shows some of the people who might be stakeholders in your job or in your projects:

Your boss Shareholders Government
Senior executives Alliance partners Trades associations
Your coworkers Suppliers The press
Your team Lenders Interest groups
Customers Analysts The public
Prospective customers Future recruits The community
Your family

Remember that although stakeholders may be both organizations and people, ultimately you can only communicate with individual people. Make sure that you identify the correct individual stakeholders within a stakeholder organization.

2. Prioritize Your Stakeholders:

You may now have a long list of people and organizations that are affected by your work. Some of these may have the power either to block or advance it. Some may be interested in what you are doing, others may not care.

Map out your stakeholders on a Power/Interest Grid on our free template as shown in figure 1, and classify them by their power over your work and by their interest in your work.

For example, your boss is likely to have high power and influence over your projects and high interest. Your family may have high interest, but are unlikely to have power over it.

Someone's position on the grid shows you the actions you have to take with them:

High power, interested people: these are the people you must fully engage with, and make the greatest efforts to satisfy.

High power, less interested people: put enough work in with these people to keep them satisfied, but not so much that they become bored with your message.

Low power, interested people: keep these people adequately informed, and talk to them to ensure that no major issues are arising. These people can often be very helpful with the detail of your project.

Low power, less interested people: again, monitor these people, but do not bore them with excessive communication.

3. Understanding your key stakeholders:

You now need to know more about your key stakeholders. You need to know how they are likely to feel about and react to your project. You also need to know how best to engage them in your project and how best to communicate with them.

Key questions that can help you understand your stakeholders are:

What financial or emotional interest do they have in the outcome of your work? Is it positive or negative?

What motivates them most of all?

What information do they want from you?

How do they want to receive information from you? What is the best way of communicating your message to them?

What is their current opinion of your work? Is it based on good information?

Who influences their opinions generally, and who influences their opinion of you? Do some of these influencers therefore become important stakeholders in their own right?

If they are not likely to be positive, what will win them around to support your project?

If you don't think you will be able to win them around, how will you manage their opposition?

Who else might be influenced by their opinions? Do these people become stakeholders in their own right?

A very good way of answering these questions is to talk to your stakeholders directly – people are often quite open about their views, and asking people's opinions is often the first step in building a successful relationship with them.

You can summarize the understanding you have gained on the stakeholder map, so that you can easily see which stakeholders are expected to be blockers or critics, and which stakeholders are likely to be advocates and supporters or your project. A good way of doing this is by color coding: showing advocates and supporters in green, blockers and critics in red, and others who are neutral in orange.

Drawn using SmartDraw. Click for free download.

Figure 2 shows an example of this - in this example, you can see that a lot of effort needs to be put into persuading Piers and Michael of the benefits of the project – Janet and Amanda also need to managed well as powerful supporters.

You can create your own example of stakeholder analysis at work - whether for your current role, a job you want to do or a new project.

Conduct a full stakeholder analysis. Ask yourself whether you are communicating as effectively as you should be with your stakeholders. What actions can you take to get more from your supporters or win over your critics?

Key points:
As the work you do and the projects you run become more important, you will affect more and more people. Some of these people have the power to undermine your projects and your position. Others may be strong supporters of your work.

Stakeholder Management is the process by which you identify your key stakeholders and win their support. Stakeholder Analysis is the first stage of this, where you identify and start to understand your most important stakeholders.

The first stage of this is brainstorm who your stakeholders are. The next step is to prioritize them by power and interest, and to plot this on a Power/Interest Grid. The final stage is to get an understanding of what motivates your stakeholders and how you need to win them around.