Great performance by project team members is critical for project success, but just as important is the involvement and contributions of project stakeholders, those individuals or groups that may affect or be affected by the outcome of a project.

But every project stakeholder is unique. Before you can effectively engage them in the project’s success, you have to understand where they’re coming from. And that’s where an analysis of your stakeholders comes into the picture.

Different stakeholders inevitably bring different attitudes, perspectives, levels of interest and motivations to a given project. With your stakeholder analysis, you could learn that your stakeholders may have a vested interest in seeing the project succeed, or they may think it’s in their best interest for the project to fail. Knowing where your stakeholders stand is very important in project planning and success as a whole.

Additionally, their level of involvement can be anywhere on the continuum. They may be completely out of the loop or uninformed, not even realizing they’re stakeholders. Or they may be aware of their status as stakeholders, but not be all that motivated to influence the project’s outcome. On the other hand, they could incredibly motivated to make sure the project succeeds, to the point where their involvement could become a distraction. This is where stakeholder management comes into play.

The goal of stakeholder analysis is to help business analysts and project managers understand these factors so they can better engage these stakeholders and increase their desire to contribute to the project and its success.

Analyzing your Stakeholders: An Overview

Your analysis begins with the Stakeholders Engagement Assessment Matrix, which helps you determine where the person or group stands on the project. Here you’ll identify whether their level of involvement and interest is:

  • Unaware
  • Negative
  • Neutral
  • Supportive
  • Leading

The next step of your stakeholder analysis is to determine the stakeholder’s power and authority, based on factors like organizational structure and Influence, including whether the influence is positive or negative. For example, if your IT department is very influential but doesn’t like the project, it means they’re influential with a negative disposition—and that can have major implications for the project’s success.

After you’ve done this work, you’ll be able to develop the Stakeholder Power Interest grid, which rates stakeholder interest based on the assessment and identifies the influence they can exert on the project. Putting them into the grid after your stakeholder analysis gives you an at-a-glance matrix showing who you need to:

  • Keep Satisfied (High Power/Low Interest)
  • Monitor (Low Power/Low Interest)
  • Manage Closely (High Power/High Interest)
  • Keep Informed (Low Interest/High Power)

From Analysis to Influence

Once the groundwork is completed through the analysis process, it’s time to dig deeper. For proper stakeholder management, identifying the motivation behind a stakeholder’s interest in the project gives you more nuanced information to be able to influence more effectively.

The stakeholder’s influence also needs to be looked at more closely at this point. Develop a strategy and actions to increase or nullify the stakeholder’s influence on the project based on what you learned from your stakeholder analysis, such as whether they are for or against the project succeeding. Consider what you can do to engage them, increase their desire to contribute and, if necessary, be more favorable towards the project, including:

  • Education on the value of the project
  • Communication level and frequency
  • Relationship building
  • Participation in working on the project

Stakeholder Management Doesn’t Make Up for Everything

Often when a project goes off course, the first question people ask is, “Did you do the stakeholder analysis?” But analysis on its own doesn’t make a project succeed.

The most effective business analysts and project managers are able to engage and involve stakeholders, not because the analysis is so exceptional, but because they focus on the relationship. First encounters are extremely important. If you want successful stakeholder management and to make sure your stakeholders are actively supporting the project’s success, make them feel good about being involved. Give them a sense that you are on their side and have their interests in mind. Kick things off on a positive note and keep it that way. Over-communicate. Be appreciative of any input they give.

Because ultimately, stakeholder engagement and project success comes down to a very simple principle: people like to help people they like.