How to Develop a Stakeholder Register

Today, let's explore the development and use of the stakeholder register.

How important is the early part of your projects? Gregory H. Horine says, “No project recovers from a variance at the 15% completion point. If you underestimated in the near, you are greatly off on the long term too."

There are several factors that affect estimates. For example, we may misunderstand the stakeholder needs due to poor stakeholder engagement and communication.

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Over time, new stakeholders show up with additional needs. And this occurs in Waterfall as well as Agile projects.

So, what can we do to mitigate these risks? Identify and engage your stakeholders early. Seek to understand your their needs and interests.

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Stakeholder Register Benefits

Projects are dynamic and stakeholders make things interesting. At any given time, an individual may exert their influence and cause disruption to your project. Or perhaps a group may be struggling in terms of their attitude towards the project. And let’s not forget outside organizations who may be impacted by our project.

How do we keep up with all these moving parts? The stakeholder register. A little time spent identifying, evaluating, and capturing stakeholder interest and concerns can pay big dividends. The register is particularly helpful when managing large projects and projects that are moving at a fast pace.

There is something about putting our pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. As we see all the stakeholders in one place, we can determine how to best use our limited time. How and when should we use our interpersonal skills to engage and influence stakeholders?

“No project recovers from a variance at the 15% completion point. If you underestimated in the near, you are greatly off on the long term too." —Greg Horine

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The Elements of a Stakeholder Register

What should we include in the stakeholder register? Registers may include but not be limited to:

  • Stakeholder Name
  • Title
  • Power. Is their power low or high?
  • Influence. Is their influence low or high?
  • Current engagement level. Are stakeholders unaware, resistant, neutral, supportive, or leading?
  • Desired engagement level. What engagement level do you want for each stakeholder—unaware, resistant, neutral, supportive, or leading?
  • Interests. What are their interest and needs?
  • Concerns. What are their concerns?

When to Start the Stakeholder Analysis

So, when do we start identifying stakeholders? Day one. When I’m assigned a project, one of the first things that I do is start asking who may be impacted or who may impact this project. This helps me to identify participants for the project charter process.

Identifying Project Stakeholders

Some stakeholders are obvious—the project sponsor, the project team, project manager, and your customers. However, there may be unknown/unknown stakeholders. We don’t know they exist and we don’t know their potential impact.

How can we increase our chances of finding the unknown stakeholders?

Review stakeholder registers for similar current and past projects

  • Ask your sponsor to help you identify stakeholders, particularly ones at the higher levels of your organization
  • Talk with your project team to identify individuals and groups within the operational areas
  • Ask subject matter experts
  • Explore the vendors involved in the project
  • Ask the janitor (you’d be surprised about what some people know)

Evaluating Project Stakeholders

Not all stakeholders are equal. We need to give more attention to some stakeholders and less to others. How do we determine this?

One simple technique is the Power/Influence grid where you group stakeholders based on their level of power (High/Low) and influence (High/Low). Project managers should carefully plan and execute their communication with the High Power/High Influence stakeholders.

Other stakeholder analysis tools include:

  • Power/Interest Grid
  • Influence/Impact Grid
  • Salience Model (classifying stakeholders by power, urgency, and legitimacy)

Next Steps in Initiating Projects

Project managers can start their projects properly by doing two things. First, identify and evaluate your stakeholders. Seek to truly understand their needs and concerns. Second, engage the key stakeholders (e.g., high power / high interest stakeholders) in the project charter process. Discuss and reach agreement on the project charter elements such as project goals, deliverables, constraints, assumptions, exclusions, and top risks. 

Online Course: The What, Why, & How of Powerful Project Charters

One of the best ways to reduce communication risks early in your projects is by writing project charters. This is not a documentation exercise! The aim is to ensure that the project sponsor, project manager, and the key stakeholders are on the same page. In this course, you will discover the 16 powerful elements of a project charter, how to use a project charter after initiation, the four project charter checkpoints, the secret sauce of writing clear goals, and how to right-size your project charters.