As I see it, a stakeholder is someone who is going to be, or believes is going to be, benefited or hurt as a result of the successful or unsuccessful completion of your project. Anyone who could be impacted as a result of your project is a Stakeholder.
Please note that I stress on the word “believes”. In the case of a stakeholder, we are dealing with a human being – so perception may be even more important than facts. For instance, if the stakeholder believes that he/she might be negatively impacted as a result of successful completion of the project, they may try to create obstacles for the project. Most theoretical definitions would skip this point – but in all practical situations I find it extremely important to understand the significance of perception.
Another way to find a stakeholder is (at least for some of them) – if something big happens in the project, who are the people that will come out running from the wood works.
It is always nice to work with some examples. So, here are a few:
- Is the Project Manager of the project a stakeholder?
- Is the Team lead of the team delivering the project a stakeholder?
- Is the product owner a stakeholder?
- Yes, perhaps THE most important one.
- Is the VP of technology a stakeholder on a technology project?
- Is the CEO a stakeholder?
- Yes, at a project level. Although, her stake may well be very diluted.
- Is the postman at your post office a stakeholder?
- No, unless your project is with the post office
- Is the pizza boy delivering you pizza during your weekend/late working hours a stakeholder?
- No, not really. But, there is an interesting point to think about – he will continue to deliver you pizza (and thus continue to earn) till the time your project continues – so this person will have an interest in the extension of your project. And just in case the project is suddenly shut down, it is going to be loss of business for that pizza place. So, the project’s operation has an impact on him. But, the outcome of the project does not – you may still continue to order pizza there even after the project is finished.
- Is the package delivery manager for your enterprise a stakeholder on a supply chain upgrade project?
- Seems like yes – you’ll have to find that out for sure.
- And what about the hacker who’s preparing to hack your company’s network. You’re working on this security upgrade project to stop attacks from people like him.
- Even though you may not know about him, or any way of contacting him, the project does impact the hacker in a big way. So, from my perspective the hacker is a stakeholder – but with no dynamic influence on the project.
Hope this has clarified any doubts. Please let me know your thoughts.