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25 Questions that Pinpoint Your Stakeholders
By Christian Palmhede

Do you want to know how to increase your project success rate? — Know your stakeholders.

In this article, I’ll share 25 questions that will ensure you are never beset by an unanticipated stakeholder.

Stakeholders are the reason we are: they are the reason we do what we do; they are the reason we do it the way we do it; heck, they are the reason we do it when we do it. Think about it: They define our scope by supplying requirements. They define quality by judging our success. They define our schedules by imposing timetables. They define our budgets by controlling the funds. They define our resources by … well, they control the resources. And, as I’m sure you know, they are the greatest source of risk for us.

In short, stakeholders have a huge influence on every aspect of project management.

It stands to reason, then, that it is in our interest to know who these giants are. After all, unknown stakeholders, and thus, unknown stakeholder wants, can cause you additional work with potential delays and added cost, resistance to and obstruction of your effort, and even your failure.

Fortunately, finding your stakeholders is easy. Below are 25 questions to ask yourself.

Someone uses your product. Your product may be a service such as helpdesk support, training, or Web hosting; it may be goods such as an access card, a software application, or a Blackberry Smartphone; or it may be a combination of both goods and services. But, no matter what it is, someone uses it.

  1. Who is requesting the product?
  2. Who, or what, uses the product?
  3. Who might request changes to the product?
  4. Whose job or responsibilities changes, or may be perceived as changing, when the product is rolled out?

Someone does the work?

  1. Who develops the product?
  2. Who inspects and audits the delivered product?
  3. Who accepts the delivered product?
  4. Who implements changes to the product?
  5. Who supports the delivered product? Who provides helpdesk support and training support?
  6. Who operates the delivered product? Who manages the environment in which the product is operated?

Someone has decision-making authority — or may believe he has such authority — over how and what is done.

  1. Who has decision-making authority over the function and scope of the product?
  2. Who has decision-making authority over the development of the product?
  3. Who has decision-making authority over the operation of the product?
  4. Who has decision-making authority over what changes go into the product?

Someone controls — or may believe he controls — funds.

  1. Who controls funds for developing the product?
  2. Who controls funds for changing the product?
  3. Who controls funds for operating the product

Someone has decision-making authority — or may believe he has such authority — over resources.

  1. Who has decision-making authority over resources to develop the product?
  2. Who has decision-making authority over resources to implement changes to the product?
  3. Who has decision-making authority over resources to operate the product?

Someone has decision-making authority — or may believe it has such authority — over scheduling.

  1. Who has decision-making authority over the timetable of the product development?
  2. Who has decision-making authority over the timetable for product changes?

Someone may be subject of the product.

  1. About which persons or other entities does the product store or manage information?

Someone may have political interests.

  1. Who has political interest in the success or failure of the product?
  2. Who has political interest in the success or failure of any of the product’s stakeholders?

I hope you found these questions helpful. They are questions that I have used time and time again to find my stakeholders.

Let me know if you thought of new stakeholders as you went through these 25 questions or if you have stakeholders that you don’t believe these questions would have helped you find. Also, please, share your own methods for identifying stakeholders.

As you know, to increase success rate, it is important that we know who has a stake in, and thus, expectations on our products, so that we can manage those expectations. However, you should also manage your interests in others to ensure that your needs and expectations are met. In my next article, I’ll talk about how you pinpoint your vested interests.

Christian Palmhede has worked as a project management consultant for ten years with local, state, and Federal government, and before that, as a business analyst for ten years in the commercial industry. Christian can be contacted by email at christian@qualityquarter.net. You can read more from Christian on his blog.

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