Analyzing and Classifying Project Stakeholders

Once we begin to capture stakeholders in our stakeholder registry we need a way of analyzing and classifying them. The goal is to understand each stakeholder and then tailor our interactions with them according to their desires and influence.

Stakeholder Power-Interest Grid.jpg

A good registry will have entry fields for two of the most important analysis factors: level of power over you and the project (which is also sometimes known as Influence) and the level of interest the stakeholder has in the project.

Both of these values are somewhat subjective, but nevertheless should be considered binary choices. I strongly suggest not overcomplicating this. While some project management experts believe in a more graduated approach, with varying levels of both power and influence, I’ve found that simply listing stakeholders as having high or low influence, and high or low interest is almost always sufficient.

Then, once we have a stakeholder’s power and interest determined, we can plot these two factors together on a simple 2×2 grid, with interest spanning left to right, and influence rising bottom to top. Plotting a stakeholders influence and interest in this manner will help focus our attention and interactions with them in an appropriate manner:

  • Low Power, Low Interest. Stakeholders with both low power and interest shouldn’t be ignored, but you also should not spend inordinate amounts of time communicating with them. Often, simply periodically monitoring them is sufficient; i.e., primarily to ensure that neither their power nor interest levels have materially changed. Examples of these stakeholders include members of the general public, who often aren’t even necessarily aware of your project.

  • Low Power, High Interest. Because of their relatively low influence abilities, these stakeholders can do little harm to your project, but still are interested in the progress or ultimate result of the work your team is performing. Typically, just keeping them informed and updated on the project is sufficient. For example, ensuring they have access to a public page of your website—and then updating that page regularly—is enough interactions. You can also periodically send out newsletters or press releases to these types of stakeholders. Examples of these stakeholders include community groups and others that may be affected by the outcome of your project.

  • High Power, Low Interest. The stakeholders that reside in the upper lefthand corner of the grid are those that you as project manager need to strive to keep satisfied. Because they have power over your project (e.g., financial, permitting, etc.), you must ensure their needs are fulfilled. Examples of this type of stakeholder includes such entities as building plans department that have to issue construction permits and perform inspections; they aren’t particularly interested in the outcome of your project one way or another, but still wield significant power over your ability to execute on time and budget.

  • High Power, High Interest. The stakeholders in the upper-right corner of the grid are those that you must not only keep satisfied, but also actively engage with and consult. These are the “big dog” stakeholders that can/will exert major influence over your project on a regular basis. These folks include funding agencies, upper management, and (often) your customer base.