The Complex Art of Stakeholder Management

Written by lewsauder

January 8, 2021

Stakeholder Management

I’ve often compared project management to juggling. Project managers have to manage many different aspects of a project. Meetings need to be scheduled and planned. Personnel issues need to be dealt with. Schedules need to be maintained.

In addition, there is a large number of stakeholders that need to be managed, pleased, and communicated with. We tend to think of stakeholders as the team members and the project sponsor. While those are perhaps the most key stakeholders, there are many more that need to be addressed.

Primary Stakeholders

Users – These are the end customer of the product you are creating on the project. If it is a software development project, this group is the end users of the software product.

Vendors– This can consist of consulting firms providing team members and software or hardware companies whose products you use. It includes anyone who supplies goods or services for your project.

Secondary Stakeholders

There is also a list of tangential stakeholders. These are groups that may not be directly affected by the project or have a minor impact. These include:

  • Operations management – If the product your project produces changes how the organization will operate on a day to day basis, this group will need to be made aware of any changes.
  • Functional managers – If the project outcome will be used by functional managers or the team they manage, they will also need to be informed and potentially trained on any changes.
  • Quality team – If you are developing software, the quality team will need to be involved to perform testing and quality assurance.
  • Security team – In software development, the security team will need to review all software being developed and deployed. If the project outcome changes how people enter or leave the property, building security needs to be involved as well.
  • Sales – If your project develops a new product for your organization that is customer facing, the organization’s sales team will need to be made aware of the product and trained on how to sell it.
  • Competitors – If you are developing a new product, it is wise to stay aware of any announcements the organization’s competitors make regarding new products that may compete. Competitors may introduce products that complement your product as well.
  • Investors – If the project will have a major impact on how the company will do business, owners and investors have a right to know what the project is generating and how it is progressing.
  • Media – If the project outcome will affect how media covers your organization, it is a good idea to work with your organization’s public relations department. Make sure they are aware of the project. This will allow them to be prepared for media calls, or to be proactive in making announcements to the media.
  • Government entities – It is important to be aware of any government regulations that may impact the project. This includes the product that the project creates. It can also impact how the project is executed. For instance, if you will be dealing with international vendors for project inputs, such as off-shore developers, there may be regulatory considerations.

This is only a partial list. Depending on the nature of the project, there could be many more. A stakeholder is any person or organization that may be affected by the project. Stakeholders also include people or groups that could have an impact on the project or its outcome.

Before the project starts – and throughout its duration – take time to think about any potential stakeholders that the project will affect or that might be an impact to the project.

Solicit feedback from your stakeholders regularly. Just as you give a periodic status report to the project sponsor, develop a communication strategy for all other stakeholders.

Clearly you wouldn’t hold regular meetings with competitors. But consider how each stakeholder is affected by the project and determine how you will react or communicate with them. Some may need regular status updates. With others, you may develop and coordinate training sessions. With still others, you may just monitor how they communicate changes that will have an impact on the project.


Stakeholder management can be one of the most complex responsibilities of a project manager. There are many that need to be kept up to date on what you are doing and how the project is progressing. There are some that you will need to monitor to determine any positive or negative impact on your work. It pays to think about your stakeholders on a regular basis to make sure you are covering all the bases necessary.

Have you ever missed communicating with a stakeholder?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnanat

Lew’s Books at Amazon:

Project Management 101
Consulting 101
The Reluctant Mentor

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