Project stakeholder

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R. Edward Freeman (1984: 46) defined stakeholder as, 'any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives'. According to the project management institute (PMI), the term stakeholder refers to, ‘an individual, group, or organization, who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project’ (Project Management Institute, 2013). In other words, almost any individual or group of individuals with an interest or stake in a consensus-building process thereby the outcome of the project and/or an ability to exert a positive or negative influence by the execution or completion of a project or being affected by the work or its deliverables, outputs, or results ([1]).

Project stakeholders are entities that have an interest in a given project. These stakeholders may be inside or outside an organization which:

  1. sponsor a project, or
  2. have an interest or a gain upon a successful completion of a project;
  3. may have a positive or negative influence in the project completion.

Examples of project stakeholders include the customer, the user group, the project manager, the development team, the testers, etc.

Project stakeholders are individuals and organizations that are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be affected as a result of project execution or project completion. They may also exert influence over the project’s objectives and outcomes. The project management team must identify the stakeholders, determine their requirements and expectations, and, to the extent possible, manage their influence in relation to the requirements to ensure a successful project.

The following are examples of project stakeholders:

  • Project leader
  • Project team members
  • Upper management
  • Project customer
  • Resource Managers
  • Line Managers
  • Product user group
  • Project testers
  • Any group impacted by the project as it progresses
  • Any group impacted by the project when it is completed
  • Subcontractors to the project
  • Consultants to the project

There are narrower views of the term stakeholder, focusing on the influencers and decision makers of a business or technological change. In this context, stakeholders are managers who have the organizational authority to allocate resources (people, money, services) and set priorities for their own organizations in support of a change. They are the people who have the power make or break a change.

The rationale for this emphasis on decision maker is reinforced by the views of John Kotter, a professor at the Harvard Business School and the author of numerous books on corporate culture, change and leadership. In an interview published in CIO Insight magazine, Kotter said, "I've seen too many technology projects get dumped on project teams and task forces that simply don't have enough clout, enough credibility, connections, you name it, to be able to do a difficult job, and so, surprise, surprise, they start getting frustrated and the powerful people in the company just ignore them or do what they want to do anyway. Also, on a lot of the IT projects, if you go up to the typical line manager and say to him, ‘You've got this big thing going on here. What's the vision? Paint a picture for me. How's the company going to be different in 18 months when this is all done?’ They can't even see it. So of course they haven't bought into it. And if they haven't bought into it, are they going to cooperate?"

Rather than focusing on one sub-set of stakeholders, Dr. Lynda Bourne[2] advocates prioritizing all stakeholders and focusing your attention on the ‘most important’ at this point in time. Her view of importance encompasses an assessment of the power, proximity and urgency associated with each stakeholder. The Stakeholder Circle methodology is described in her Doctoral thesis: Project Relationship Management and the Stakeholder Circle.[3]


Freeman RE (1984) Strategic Management: a stakeholder approach. Pitman Series in Business and Public Policy, Harpercollins College Div; First Edition, 275 p. ISBN 978-0273019138

Project Management Institute (2013) A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), Fifth Edition, Newtown Square, PA, USA: Project Management Institute, p. 589. ISBN 978-1935589679, Akhter S, Zizi F, Jean-Louis G, Ramasubramanian C, Edward Freeman R and Narasimhan M (2015). . Front. Psychiatry 6:71. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2015.00071

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