How to Identify Stakeholders in Project Management

By Fahad Usmani, PMP, PMI-RMP Project Management

CTU Business Degree - StakeholdersAs a project manager responsible for completing projects successfully and within scope, it’s imperative that you know the stakeholders. Stakeholders can be a person or organization with an interest in the project’s completion. This can be anyone from an influential customer, sponsor, the public or performing organization involved in the project.

Because your stakeholders require you to understand the specifications of a project and to meet their expectations, performing an analysis of who they are is essential. Be aware that it’s a time-consuming process, and one in which you want to make sure no important stakeholder is missed.

Review the Project Charter
The project charter provides the first clues to who your stakeholders are. A charter, management’s official authorization document for the project, also provides their impressions of who the high-level stakeholders are and what their requirements may be. Use the information from the project charter to begin defining who the interested parties are.

Conduct Your Stakeholder Analysis
A stakeholder analysis comes next, and should be conducted during either the initiation or planning phase of the project. During this process, not only must you identify stakeholders, but also their particular interests in, and abilities to impact, the project. Stakeholders can also have power to affect projects positively or negatively – such as voting, economic, political or legal power – that you need to identify. These factors will be important when it’s time to draft your stakeholder management strategy later.

Research More Documents
Other documents may contain information on previous projects, leading you to clues of additional stakeholders.

  • Contract documents – In these, you’ll find names and addresses of suppliers and their local agents who may be potential stakeholders.
  • Organizational process assets – This refers to plans, procedures, historical information, schedules, stakeholder registers or other data from past projects. These documents can indicate other interested parties.
  • Enterprise environmental factors – These can include, but aren’t limited to, organizational culture and structure, existing human resources, personnel administration policies, industry standards and government policies, and may cue you into further cues to your potential stakeholders.

Talk to Subject Matter Experts
Subject matter experts (SMEs) hold key details to areas of your project, so it’s fundamental that you interview them if you want your analysis to be thorough. Prepare well for interviewing by composing in advance the right questions to ask. Often, SMEs are on tight schedules, so make the most of the brief time that you may have with them.

After you’ve identified as many stakeholders as you can, next sit and brainstorm with others of your team, to see if you can eke out any others with potential interest in the project.
During the brainstorming session, you need to answer questions such as:

  • Who is directly and indirectly involved?
  • Who may be affected by the project or its outcome?
  • Who are the suppliers?
  • Who are the shareholders?
  • Who has influence and authority to project or its outcome?
  • Who can make your project fail?
  • Who can make your project successful?
  • Is there any community affected by the project or its outcome?

Create a Stakeholder Management Strategy
Once you’d identified your stakeholders, you’ll want to create a strategy for managing each of them. High-power/high-interest group stakeholders will likely be managed closely, for example and low-power/low-interest group stakeholders may only require infrequent monitoring.

Stakeholder Register
Next, you’ll record everything on the stakeholder register. The register is an important document containing information about the stakeholders, their influence, specific interest, ranking and strategies for managing them.

Continue Making Adjustments
Now that you’ve gone through the process of identifying stakeholders, you’ll want to understand that, during the course of the project, you may have to perform it several times as new stakeholders come to light. As the project progresses or changes, you may also find that their influence and interest change. Remember to revise your management strategy accordingly.

Undoubtedly, accomplishing project plans can be complex endeavors, but if you achieve thoroughness, you can consider yourself a successful manager. Just as communicators must know their audience, knowing your stakeholders is fundamental.

Project Management Blogger - Fahad UsmaniFahad Usmani, PMP, PMI-RMP is a blogger on Project Management topics. He writes on his blog at to help professionals with PMP Certification Exam Preparation. Visit his blog to read more about project management concepts.

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