What actually is a ‘stakeholder’?

Stakeholder – that just sounds like project management lingo! One of those things that actually distracts from the real work?

Totally not!

Whether you are working on an internal project or you are coming into a situation to manage a project, you always have to identify who your main stakeholders are.

If you don’t bother identifying them and their perspective/agenda, it is quite likely that you will:

  • totally miss your targets/goals
  • not spot possible issues and stumbling blocks ahead
  • not get key people on board
  • not be able to identify solutions and opportunities
  • possibly run into deep problems including the failure of the whole project

Why is that so, you ask? …and, since we are talking about it, who are these people?
According to Wikipedia

Project stakeholders are entities that have an interest in a given project.

So, stakeholders are those people who have a vested interest in the project and its development. A stakeholder does not necessarily have to be actively involved in the project – it could well be that they are mainly interested in the implications of the outcome or the impact of an aspect on their field of work.

Have a look at a couple of examples:

Building project

  • The developer
  • The architect
  • The building firm
  • The council
  • The bank
  • The neighbours to the property
  • The potential new inhabitants

Redevelopment Training and Development section of business website

  • COO
  • Training and development manager
  • Marketing team
  • Communications team
  • Web developer
  • Finance team
  • HR
  • IT team
  • End -users

Depending on the project, this could be extended to suppliers, users, internal departments, council departments etc. etc etc

You will find that very quickly you can identify quite a number of stakeholders. And all of them need to be on your radar – all of them will require attention and care at some point.

But – at least you know who to look out for!

Review one of your project: are you aware of all the people who have some sort of interest in the development or outcome? Also, as your project develops, are there new people on the radar who you need to connect with?

Ricarda Baldock works as a freelance project manager and management consultant with experience in SMEs, the charity sector, in IT projects and in the finance sector.
Among her specialties are project planning, strategic analysis, process improvement, project branding and project marketing.