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Importance of Stakeholder Assessment

When planning a project we do a lot of ‘cookie-cutter’ tasks. Estimating budget and schedule, forming our team, defining our project scope, preparing an overall plan are just some of the tasks that are done as part of initiating a project. A key task that is sometimes overlooked or undervalued is identifying all relevant stakeholders.

Your stakeholders are the lifeblood of your project. The PMI definition of a stakeholder is “an individual or group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity or outcome of a project”. Or by a simpler definition, anyone who has a vested interest in the outcome of your project (notice I said “outcome”, not success). You need to consider those stakeholders who may not be so excited to see your project come to fruition and build those risks into your plan.

Another key element to stakeholder identification is to understand what interest they have in your project. Why would a particular stakeholder be concerned about the outcome of your project? Are they a business user whose day-to-day job will be affected? Perhaps they are a technical team who manage a downstream system from the one you are implementing.

By identifying all stakeholders of your project, it may ultimately help form your project plan or add additional considerations to your project plan. As an example, one project I was managing was to retrofit a legacy application with a number of changes, most notably a significant database structure change that fundamentally altered the application. When forming the project plan a stakeholder group that was not initially consulted or considered was the business intelligence group who were responsible for generating reports from the database. Upon discovering this missing stakeholder group, our project team had to alter our plan and ensure that we allotted time for this group to assess the structure changes as well as plan and execute the changes to their reports.

The key ingredient to project success is a solid plan (and execution) of communications. By having a clear view of all stakeholders for your project, you’re enabling yourself as a project manager to ensure that everyone who has a vested interest in the outcome of your project is part of your communications plan and their interest in your project is accounted for in your plan.

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