Planview Blog

Your path to business agility

Project Portfolio Management

Identifying Project Stakeholders (When They Aren’t Obvious)

Published By Team AdaptiveWork


Every project has stakeholders and identifying their role and importance for your project can be key for ensuring swift decision making and the ability to recognize which needs take priority over others. If you are wondering how to identify project stakeholders, they can generally be defined as:

A stakeholder is any individual, group, or organization impacted by the outcome of a project. They can be within or outside the body sponsoring the project. And they can have a positive or negative influence on the project.

Using this definition as a base, different categories of project stakeholders can be established:

  • Internal stakeholders: project manager, project team, the organization itself, and sponsors of the project.
  • External stakeholders: Customers, suppliers, contractors, government agencies, and the local community.

In this way, by identifying the stakeholders that are directly and indirectly concerned with the decisions you are taking, your ability to factor their needs into the equation and your project course becomes easier.

Creating a stakeholder register

At the beginning of a project it is useful to establish a stakeholder register which lists each stakeholder and information on their relationship to the project, such as

  • Name
  • Designation
  • Role in project
  • Communication needs
  • Project interest
  • Impact on project
  • Classification

This will mean you have an easy to understand document to consult any time you are unsure of a stakeholder’s role or who should be taken into consideration for a particular decision.

How to identify project stakeholders by level of importance

This, however, can be a very broad definition and mean that your list of project stakeholders can be very long and not necessarily effective when taken into account in the decision-making process. Therefore, there’s a need, not just to know who they are them but also to understand how to identify project stakeholders which are the most important for your project’s success.

Graham Kenny, MD of Strategic Factors, a strategic planning agency, has written in the Harvard Business Review that there are five questions you can ask to help determine who your key stakeholders are.

Increase your business agility with Planview AdaptiveWork’s project management software

These are:

  1. Do they have a fundamental impact on your project’s performance?

This comes under whether the project stakeholders are direct or indirect. For example, if your project is to improve your internal communication network, your customers are not directly affected as, in this case, they are only concerned with the final product which is produced at the end of your production process, not how it gets done.

  1. Can you clearly identify what you want from them?

Some stakeholders can have a very abstract impact on your project. An example would be your local community, which you may affect with your project but quite often have very minimal input into its planning or execution.

  1. Is it a relationship you wish to grow or that remains static?

If you are looking to increase the strength of a relationship through a project, for example with customers or other departments in the organization, then they should be taken into account. Other relationships, such as with set-fee data hosts or tax collection services are not liable to change other than through scaling, so they can be discounted as being key project stakeholders even if they do have an impact on the project.

  1. Can you replace them easily?

While it does not mean that their interests shouldn’t be accounted for, stakeholders which can be relatively easily replaced, such as suppliers or financial backers, can be excluded from the list of key stakeholders as they are not fundamental to the project continuing.

  1. Have you already counted them under another term?

While still remaining key stakeholders, it is possible that certain groups may have already been taken into account. Contractors who have been seconded to help the implementation of certain equipment or systems, for example, would overlap with the supplier who employs them and who may already have been counted.


Now that you know how to identify stakeholders, it’s important that you know how to get them more involved in the success of your project. Here are some of our best tips.

Related Posts

Written by Team AdaptiveWork