A project manager and their team aren’t the only ones involved in any given project.
There are many others who are influencing it…
And helping it succeed.
Identifying who these people are may mean the difference between a project that falters or never gets off the ground and one that soars beyond its expected goals.
These people are known as stakeholders.
And before you start any project, you need to analyze these people to accomplish your desired outcomes.
In this post, we’ll give you a thorough walkthrough of how to approach a stakeholder analysis.
But first, let’s quickly define a stakeholder analysis.
What Is Stakeholder Analysis?
Every project you embark on has stakeholders.
These are the individuals, groups, and teams, both internal and external, who are involved with or affect the project.
A stakeholder analysis is a process of identifying all of these people, grouping them according to specific categories, and determining how to best involve them, communicate with them about your project, and win their support.
Below, we walk you step-by-step through this process.
How Do You Conduct a Stakeholder Analysis?
Step 1: Find Out Who Your Stakeholders Are
Where else could a stakeholder analysis begin than with a breakdown of each and every stakeholder involved in your project?
This step requires a lot of thoughtfulness and serious consideration. You want to brainstorm absolutely every possible stakeholder who should be involved with the project.
A big project can easily be derailed when you fail to consult with key stakeholders. Even small stakeholders can lend outsized insights to keep your project on track.
The goal is to minimize the risk of incorrect scope, excessive change orders, and future user resistance. By identifying every conceivable stakeholder upfront, you increase the chances of delivering a successful project.
Throw out every stakeholder you believe might be involved, even if you have to take them off the list later. You don’t want anyone to fall through the cracks.
Here’s a list of the most common stakeholders you’ll have on any given project:
- Executives in your organization, including the project sponsor.
- Project team members who will produce the product or service outlined in your project.
- Customers who will consume and use your product or service.
- Department managers, especially in technical fields such as IT, who will provide expert advice and resources on your project.
- Lenders, creditors, and investors providing the necessary financing for your project.
- Suppliers and vendors with outside resources necessary for the completion of your project.
- Government officials and regulators providing essential permits and approvals for your project.
- Local committees and boards to approve your project’s deliverables.
- Marketing staff who will be responsible for getting the word out about your project.
- Sales staff who will be key in getting the product or service into the hands of customers.
Step 2: Identify the Power and Interest of Each Stakeholder
Stakeholders can exercise enormous influence over your project, or very little.
The two factors that determine how much influence they exercise are power and interest.
Power is the stakeholder’s ability to halt or modify the project.
Interest is the level of involvement the stakeholder has in your project. Think about it as the size of the overlap between the stakeholder’s and project’s needs.
Managing stakeholders appropriately requires you to chart out their level of power and interest.
One tool to do this is the power-interest matrix or grid.
The stakeholder’s interest level is marked on the x-axis while their power level is marked on the y-axis.
This gives you 4 quadrants to work with:
- Low power, low interest (ie business development manager who facilitated your project’s contract but isn’t concerned with what you’re doing beyond that.)
- High power, low interest (ie government regulators who can shut your project down if you violate the rules, but don’t necessarily care about the project’s outcomes.)
- High power, high interest (ie direct managers and supervisors who have given you the green light and can just as easily stop the project altogether, and who greatly want to see the project succeed.)
- Low power, high interest (ie members of your marketing team who really want the project catering to the correct users and will make their voices heard but don’t have enough power to enforce their desires.)
Each of these quadrants comes with a recommendation for how to handle that particular set of stakeholders:
- Stakeholders with low power, low interest must be monitored, but there’s not much else you need to worry about with them unless their power and interest increases throughout the duration of the project.
- Stakeholders with high power, low interest must be kept satisfied because they can easily derail a project over arbitrary or minor issues if they so choose.
- Stakeholders with high power, high interest are deeply invested in the project and must be actively managed very closely.
- Stakeholders with low power, high interest must be kept informed about everything because they can exercise a lot of influence by raising concerns and demanding changes if they don’t get what they want.
Step 3: Figure Out the Level of Support and Resistance for Each Stakeholder
Different stakeholders hold different values, opinions, and interests.
Oftentimes, stakeholders are playing on “different teams” and have competing needs and objectives, which requires project managers to possess strong conflict resolution, negotiation, and communication skills.
There are essentially five levels of support you can expect from your stakeholders:
- Unaware – the stakeholder doesn’t know about the project or its consequences for them.
- Resistant – the stakeholder knows about your project and opposes it.
- Neutral – the stakeholder is aware of your project but doesn’t support nor oppose it.
- Supportive – the stakeholder is well-aware of your project and actively supports it with a desire to see it succeed.
- Leading – the stakeholder is so engaged in the project and cares so much about its success, they’re willing to lend assistance and resources to the project management team.
Using a stakeholder engagement assessment matrix allows you to track the level of support for each stakeholder.
The grid lets you see where each stakeholder resides in terms of support for your project in contrast to where you would like them to be.
Put all your stakeholders in one column on the far left of the matrix.
Put the levels of support we outlined above into the top row horizontally across the matrix.
Use the letter “C” to symbolize where the stakeholder currently is in their level of support and the letter “D” to denote where you would like the stakeholder to be.
Ideally, you want to move stakeholders from “Resistant” to “Neutral” or “Supportive.” This isn’t an easy task and will require a lot of effort from you and your team to accomplish.
But at least you know what work you have ahead of you to gain buy-in (which we’ll discuss in the final step on this list).
It’s also the case that some stakeholders don’t need to be moved out of the resistant category, especially if they possess low power. But be aware, these stakeholders can still cause trouble for your project down the line, especially if they have a high interest.
Existing supportive stakeholders, on the other hand, don’t require much of your time because they’re not going to get in the way.
Step 4: Determine the Underlying Factors Driving Your Stakeholders
Every stakeholder has their own motivations for supporting or opposing your project.
In order to communicate with them effectively and gain buy-in (the next and final step), you should map these underlying factors in order to address them as necessary.
Here’s a list of the most factors driving your stakeholders:
- Financial concerns – the stakeholder will make or lose their own personal income as a result of your project.
- Moral and ethical values – the stakeholder believes your project is or is not moral and ethical, should be undertaken or should be abandoned based entirely on their code of beliefs.
- Legality – the stakeholder believes your project violates or upholds specific laws and regulations.
- Religious beliefs – the stakeholder’s religious beliefs dictate their opinion and support of or opposition to your project.
- Political opinions – the stakeholder’s political opinions and those of the party they’re a part of direct them to assist or resist your project.
- Business interests – the stakeholder will increase or decrease their business revenue as a result of your project.
- Knowledge – the stakeholder’s level of understanding about your project will contribute to them offering assistance, support, or not.
- Demographics – the stakeholder’s age and other characteristics will determine how likely they are to support or oppose your project.
- Environmentalism – the stakeholder will support or disavow your project based on its environmental impact.
- Value of ownership – the stakeholder gains or loses value on their property as a result of your project.
Step 5: Establish a Plan to Get Buy-In from Each Stakeholder
Now that you’ve done your homework on each stakeholder, it’s time to put together a game plan for communicating with and winning buy-in from them.
Consider how to structure your message so it aligns with their motivations and priorities.
Pinpoint all the gains and benefits each stakeholder receives from your project.
Construct a formal communication plan for each stakeholder, including what needs to be communicated, how often the stakeholder needs to be contacted, the best way to contact the stakeholder, and the outcomes you hope to achieve each time you connect with them.
Leverage the knowledge, expertise, and experience of the supportive and leading stakeholders to glean insights from them about how to best approach resistant, unaware, and even neutral stakeholders.
And when it comes to communicating with stakeholders remotely, using visual communication tools will help you effectively influence them.
Persuading Stakeholders Remotely Is Best Achieved with Visual Communication
Emails, texts, calls…
None of them possess the persuasive power of showing your face or visually demonstrating what you’re talking about.
Zight (formerly CloudApp) is a visual communication solution that lets you bring presentations to life and simulate a face-to-face meeting, reducing miscommunication and mistakes.
You can show stakeholders everything there is to know about your project.
Exhibit how your project will benefit them and why they should be involved.
And make it super easy for them to “get it” and start supporting your endeavor.
Zight (formerly CloudApp) is used by over 3 million people and is trusted by top companies such as Uber, Salesforce, and Adobe.
We’ve been ranked by G2 Crowd as one of the top sales enablement tools and we continue to help companies improve communication with all of our solutions.