How to Analyze Stakeholders

November 4, 2015 Maxim Yakubovitch

In my previous article, I outlined why you should engage your stakeholders and how you identify them.

But what do you do once you’ve identified the stakeholders?

There are four strategies typically used when working with the stakeholders – this is what an Interest/Power Matrix is used for:

On the horizontal axis is the stakeholder’s interest in the Project – the more to the right, the bigger the interest. On the vertical axis is the Power – the higher up the axis, the bigger is the power the stakeholder has in the project.

how to identify stokeholders

This matrix requires stakeholder interest evaluation. Even though this evaluation will be carried out by an expert, it should be based on some data. You’ll want to find out what each stakeholder expects from the project, and measure the interest by those expectations. For example, you could use a scale from 1 to 10 (where 10 stands for the highest interest in the project). Each point in that scale should have a clear interpretation, so that the expert can evaluate the interest with maximum accuracy.

Some of the expectations are very obvious, but others happen to be hidden, and it’s important to reveal them.

As I see it, revealing project expectations is as challenging as revealing project deliverables. To solve that issue, it would be useful to have some practically feasible instruments. Here are some methods you can use:

  • Interview
  • Brainstorming
  • Focus group
  • Questionnaires
  • Studying the documentation

After you’ve evaluated project expectations you have to define what the power of each stakeholder is. To simplify the procedure you can again use the expert opinion and a ten-point scale.

The next step is to place each stakeholder on the matrix and think of the strategies to work with each of them:

Monitor – occasionally check if the stakeholder’s interest or power have increased, because a change in the scale will cause a shift to a different quadrant of the matrix and a need to change the strategy.

Keep informed – inform the stakeholder about the expected project results, project progress and project changes in multiple ways, so that a positive attitude towards the project is achieved.

Keep satisfied – it’s usually easy to fulfill the expectations of this group of stakeholders, because their expectations are relatively low. That’s why you have to define those expectations, convert them into deliverables and actually deliver those. If the expectations contradict project aims, it’s necessary to explain the stakeholders those expectations are not supposed to be fulfilled.

Manage closely – involve into the decision-making process, frequently inform if the aims are fulfilled, show them intermediate results.

These are the things you can find out as you analyse the stakeholders:

  1. Which of the stakeholders can give you the info on the deliverables (the quadrants on the right are sure to be included in the deliverables collection process; the one on the top left should be analysed.)
  2. Which stakeholders should be seen as sources of risk for the project.
  3. Which stakeholders should be taken into consideration in project communication matters, how often and in which form you should give the info to each stakeholder.
  4. Which additional operations should be included in the list of project operations to manage project stakeholders.

Thus, analyzing project stakeholders can provide you with a lot of vital information about project planning. It is important to repeat this analysis once in awhile as the project develops, because power and interest can change. Also, as you get the intermediate results of this analysis, you can see that new stakeholders are appearing, the ones you couldn’t identify while the project started. There are many things a project manager should do for the project to succeed. Analyzing the stakeholders is not the most difficult of those, but it sure is important.

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About the Author

Maxim Yakubovitch is a Project Management business consultant with almost 15 years of experience and a business coach.

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