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Stakeholder analysis: definition, tools, and examples

You’ve created a budget, developed a strategy, and you’re ready to move forward with an exciting new project. But if your stakeholders aren’t on board, your project will fail to launch. Business decisions are formed with stakeholder interests at heart, but the first step is to understand what exactly those stakeholder interests are. This is where stakeholder analysis comes in. 

What is a stakeholder?

A stakeholder is any individual or group with interests at stake in your company. This includes anyone who might be impacted on a financial or social level by its operations. Stakeholders include individuals who are both inside and outside the organisation. Typical company stakeholders include:

  • Employees

  • Departments (sales, marketing, finance, etc.)

  • Subsidiary companies

  • Business partners

  • Customers

  • Suppliers

  • Consultants

  • Investors

What is stakeholder analysis?

A stakeholder analysis describes the process of identifying all stakeholders and assessing their influence on the business. Using stakeholder mapping tools, you can then break down their interests and influence to forge stronger relationships.

Run a company-side stakeholder analysis for a big-picture overview of who is involved with the organisation at every level. Furthermore, a manager may run a stakeholder analysis within their own department for smaller-scale concepts and projects, including a proof of concept proposal.

Why do you need to perform a stakeholder analysis?

There are many reasons to perform a stakeholder analysis:

1. To obtain assistance from key players in the business

For example, stakeholder analysis can be crucial if you want to start a new project, as you’ll need to understand the vested interests of company stakeholders to gain insight and support. If you don’t run a stakeholder analysis, you might not be approaching the right people.

2. To gain support at an early stage of development

Before you jump through all the hoops of project management or product development, bring the important company players on board. Involving all relevant stakeholders at an early-stage helps you gauge whether or not this proposal is viable.

3. To prevent conflict and mismanagement.

Inter-company conflict can derail even the most promising projects. Examining a stakeholder model before you begin helps you identify any potential points of conflict, so that you can find the best angle to win over executives who might need additional persuasion.

How to perform a stakeholder analysis

The right stakeholder model will depend on your industry, project, and company structure. However, there are a few main steps to follow in any analysis:

Step 1: Identify your stakeholders.

You can’t proceed to the analysis stage if you don’t know who you’re analysing. The first step is to identify everyone who might be impacted by your proposal. This could involve both internal and external stakeholders, or only members of a specific department. It’s better to cast a wider net than necessary, rather than narrow your scope and accidentally overlook key figures, so involve all company stakeholders if you’re not sure.

Step 2: Use stakeholder mapping techniques to group them together.

Stakeholder mapping is at the heart of any analysis. Mapping tools give you a way to break down your stakeholders by interest and influence. There are few different templates to try, most notably the Power/Interest grid.

This mapping tool groups stakeholders into four categories.

  1. High-power, high-interest – These are the individuals who you should prioritise. They are likely to hold an interest in your project and have the power to make it happen. For example, high-power, high-interest individuals would involve executives and department heads.

  2. High-power, low-interest – Although they may not show interest in your project, nonetheless you’ll need to think about how to keep this group of stakeholders happy due to the power they wield within the company. Don’t overload them with information, but find ways to win them over.

  3. Low-power, high-interest – This group of stakeholders might include colleagues or individuals in an unrelated department. They may not have a high level of power. In any case, you should keep them informed about your project’s progress since they have shown a high degree of interest.

  4. Low-power, low-interest – There’s no need to spend too much time communicating with this group. Simply send the occasional update to ensure all stakeholders have the bare minimum of information.

Step 3: Formulate the best communication strategy.

Now that you’ve used stakeholder mapping techniques to list and analyse all parties involved, it’s time to think about how to win them over with a clear-eyed communication strategy. Think about their motivations, priorities, and likely views of your project. With this information in hand, you can craft your approach. You’ll want to focus your primary efforts on those identified as high-power, high-interest, as described above.

Taking the time to map out and analyse your stakeholders can make all the difference when it comes to your project’s success.

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