What is stakeholder analysis and why should you start doing it?

Stakeholder analysis is a great tool to have in your quiver especially when starting a new job

Have you ever been in a situation where you were trying to deliver a project but somehow you couldn’t get traction with the stakeholders? Or maybe you just started a new job and are trying to figure out who to talk to? Or you just moved from an SME to a corporation and you became overwhelmed with the number of people you are supposed to meet and talk to? Stakeholder analysis can be the first step to move projects forward or to understand the new environment you found yourself in.

If you are not sure who stakeholders actually are, and why are they important, check out this article.

What is stakeholder analysis?

Stakeholder analysis is a range of techniques and tools to identify and understand the needs and expectations of the people involved in the project and the ones that the project may affect.

Usually used in project management, stakeholder analysis can also be a great tool when entering a new company to understand who should you be talking to, regardless of your projects. Who can support you going forward, who can be an ally? It is a great tool to build an understanding of the dynamics and politics within the company.

Why should you do a stakeholder analysis?

One of the most important aspects of stakeholder analysis is that it saves you time in the long run. Knowing who is who and what are their levels of influence and interest, what goals are they trying to achieve, or even what communication style they prefer is a great asset to your career within the company.

Having done stakeholder analysis, you can also leverage the knowledge and wisdom of key players in the business. Talking to them, sharing your projects or intentions, and asking for their input can help when establishing what projects are even worth pursuing.

When working on a particular project, having done stakeholder analysis can be useful as well to address issues and conflicts early on. You might have a potential high-power stakeholder, who has objections to the project. Listening to them early on and addressing their concerns, can help you earn their approval and prepare you for future conversations – you will already know which elements are they most worried about.

Steps for a good quality stakeholder analysis

The general consensus is that stakeholder analysis is a 4-step process:

  1. Identifying stakeholders
  2. Prioritizing them
  3. Understanding them
  4. Engaging them

The first step seems to be very simple – identify the people who will be impacted by your project. If this is your first week in the role, you might however find it difficult to establish who might be your stakeholder.

I have therefore created an 8-step process to help you go through this analysis with ease:

  1. Talk to your boss and team – ask them who would they recommend to talk to? Who do they regularly communicate with? They have been in the company longer than you so might already have some good insights into who is important for you – use their knowledge as soon as possible.
  2. Create a list of people to talk to – yes, even if you have a great memory – write it down! You will be surprised in a few months how much you have forgotten from these early days. Make a list in your preferred tool. I use Excel, which helps me with the further steps.
  3. Schedule short meetings with people on the list – it’s never a bad thing to schedule a courtesy meeting to meet someone new. Aim for 30 min networking chats, make sure that you ask a lot of questions about the person’s role in the company and/or find out their interest about the project that you are running. Share your background and a short info about your project. Don’t overwhelm with detais though and focus on finding out the most from the person.
  4. Rate stakeholders on a scale of 1-10 – (1 being low and 10 being high) in terms of influence and interest (in your project or even in your success overall). The basic theory is to only rate the stakeholder as low/high on these two scales, however, assigning the numbers like this can help you place them more accurate and understand your priorities better, especially when you have a large group of stakeholders.
  5. Map your stakeholders – using the scales from point 4 map your stakeholders on the below grid. For example: your boss can have a medium high influence (7) and a high interest (10). He would end up in the upper right corner.

6. Plan your engagement – for example, the ‘Manage closely’ section would require frequent 121 meetings and discussions, ‘Keep informed’ could be managed by team meetings, ‘Meet their needs’ could take part in surveys, and ‘Regular minimal contact’ be updated via newsletters. Make sure that your engagement plan works for you.

7. Build a schedule – plan for the duration of your project or on an annual basis. I like to plan everything in Excel (decide for example the frequency – weekly/monthly/quarterly) and then move it to the calendar. You might not want to overwhelm someone with recurring meetings before they get to know you better, so keep an eye on your Excel spreadsheet to schedule these regularly.

8. Engage – if you followed the process, this part will be the easiest. Starting from ‘high interest’ stakeholders you can build a really good picture of the project/company politics and benefit from your meetings.

Start doing your stakeholder analysis today

Regardless if you have been in the company for a while or you just starting, doing a stakeholder analysis will be beneficial. Remember to start asking people closest to you, teammates, and your boss, who do they believe to be of importance to you, and the rest will follow.

Let me know in the comments if you would like a more detailed article about stakeholder mapping and if you would add any additional steps to this analysis.

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