Every project has stakeholders because those people usually drive the demand for the work that you are paid to do. Without demand, you do not get funding or resources to do the project. That seems like common sense right? One of the most common mistakes that are made regarding project stakeholders is not identifying the right stakeholders. In this article, I will share three very simple tips for uncovering the “real” stakeholders for your project, which could have a major impact on the success or failure of your project.
Let’s first clarify what a “stakeholder” is. A project stakeholder is someone who has something to gain (or lose) by the outcome of your project. Most of the time, these can be customers that benefit from the work that you do, or leaders within your organization that rely on your project output in order to do achieve a business objective.
Most projects that I have managed usually starts with a lot of ambiguity in terms of who the actual stakeholders are. Here are a few tips to help you find those mysterious people who may not be directly involved with your work.
Tip #1 – Ask yourself: who will benefit most from a successful outcome of this project? Who stands to be perceived as the “hero” if your project is delivered on time? Who has the most to lose if you are late? Which business function will this project impact? Keep in mind that this there may be multiple people that fit into this category.
Tip #2 – Find out who has the power to help you when you hit a roadblock. The person who has the authority to make some tough decisions (such as hire more people or sign a purchase order for equipment/tools) is usually a key stakeholder. This is because if this person has the power to help, and you end up failing, this person’s reputation could be in jeopardy as a result.
Tip #3 – Find out who has financial incentives tied to your project. This might be tricky for you to figure out, especially if your organization does not usually divulge the details of how senior leaders may be compensated. However, usually you can find this out just by talking to a few people in the organization who has connections.
So why should you care who your project stakeholders are? Because they are the people who can help you get through difficult situations. You need to know who is on your side because all projects will have problems, and how you handle them can make you look like a rock star or a goat…the choice is yours!