6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Process 13.1 Identify Stakeholders: Tools and Techniques


There are certain processes that go in at the beginning of the project which require a brainstorming approach.   Of course, defining and then refining the requirements of the product, service or result is the core of the project planning.

However, if you want to take your project management career to the next level of success, you need to get a handle on two areas:   Risk Management and Stakeholder Management.   They may not seem on the surface to be related, but they are linked at a deeper level in the following way:   a risk is defined as an event or situation that may affect the project, and a stakeholder is a person who may influence the project (or who may be influenced by the project).   In either case, they are not under your control, and yet may effect the outcome of your project.   Trying to manage these factors that are partially out of your control is key to success so that you don’t get sidetracked on your goal of a successful project outcome.

However, the methods of dealing with these factors differs.  In risk management, you try to mitigate those factors either in terms of probability and/or impact.   You can’t control the weather, for example, but you can buy an umbrella and keep it handy so that if it does rain, you mitigate its impact on you and your clothes.   With stakeholders, we’re talking about people, so rather than try to mitigate their impact, you can actually engage with them and attempt to assuage them if they are initially opposing your project.

But in order to engage them, you have to first identify who the stakeholders are.   That is the goal of this process.  In this post, we will discuss the tools and techniques involved.

13.1.2  Identify Stakeholders:  Tools and Techniques

13.1.2.1  Expert Judgment

“Expert judgment” and “meetings” (tool and technique 13.1.2.5–see paragraph below) are what I call “generic” tools and techniques in that they are used with many, if not, most of the project management processes.

In this case, expertise should be considered from people who have specialized knowledge in:

  • Understanding the politics and power structures in the organization
  • Knowledge of the industry or type of project deliverable
  • Knowledge of the wider environment and culture including customers
  • Knowledge of individual team members contributions and expertise

13.1.2.2  Data Gathering

Here are the techniques for gathering data that can be used for this process.

  • Questionnaires and surveys–these can include one-one-on interviews or focus group sessions (see “Meetings” paragraph 13.1.2.5 below)
  • Brainstorming–this elicits input from groups such as team members of subject matter experts (see “Expert Judgment” paragraph 13.1.2.1 above).   Brain writing is a variant on brainstorming that allows individual participants time to consider the question(s) before the group creativity session is held.

13.1.2.3  Data Analysis

Once you’re gathered the data in the techniques listed above, how do you analyze them?

  • Stakeholder analysis–stakeholders are listed together with their
    • positions in the organization
    • relationship to the project (are they on the project, are they affected by the outcome of the project, can they affect the outcome of the project)
    • stake in the project (do they have relevant knowledge, resources, ownership or rights to an asset or property, or interest in the project’s outcome)
  • Document analysis–the repository of lessons learned from previous projects may contain information that may help identify stakeholders for the current project

13.1.2.4  Data Representation

Once you’ve analyzed the data in the techniques listed above, how to you represent them in order to prepare the stakeholder register (the outcome of the process)?

  • Impact/influence grid–this is one example of the way information gathered and analyzed in the techniques listed above can be represented in a way that pulls it all together.   One axis of the grid represents the power or influence a stakeholder has in the organization, and therefore has over the project the organization is undertaking.   One axis of the grid represents the impact that the product, service or result created by the project will have on that stakeholder.   Those who have are not impacted by the project, and who have little interest in the project, will be treated like risks that have little probability or impact on the project–i.e., they will be “monitored” in case their attitude towards the project changes., and simply informed about the results.   On the other hand, those who are greatly impacted by the project, and who have great interest in the project, will be positively engaged by the project manager.   Those in between may be informed about the process and engaged to a lesser extent by the project to increase their interest and support for the project.

The “influence” part of the impact/influence grid listed above can be given further analysis through analysis of the “directions of influence” a person has, such as:

  • Upward (senior management)
  • Downward (subject matter experts who contribute their knowledge or skills)
  • Outward (stakeholder groups and their representatives outside the organization)
  • Sideward (other project managers or middle managers who are in competition for scarce project resources)

There are other data representation techniques, like a “stakeholder cube”, which basically takes the impact/influence grid mentioned above and adds a third dimension to the analysis.   The salience model which assesses the stakeholder’s power, urgency and legitimacy (i.e., their involvement in the project is appropriate), is an example of this type of three-dimensional model.   Look at p. 512 and 513 of the 6th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide for further details.

These techniques help with prioritization of your stakeholder engagement efforts.   Those stakeholders with high levels of impact and/or influence will obviously receive more of your efforts to try to engage them.    The types of engagement you will resort to will be spelled out in the next process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management.

12.1.2.5  Meetings

Meetings are used to develop an understanding of significant project stakeholders through brainstorming techniques that gather and analyze data.   They can take the form of

  • Facilitation workshops
  • Small group guided discussions
  • Virtual groups (using electronics or social media technologies)

The output of these meetings will be to create forms of data representation (mentioned the previous paragraph) to help prioritize the engagement of stakeholders in the next process.

The outputs of this process will be discussed in the next post.

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