When projects move past the brainstorming stage, it’s common for different people to come on board to get the job done. Shared ownership over a project is an integral part in moving it toward completion, and the different people involved in any given project are known as stakeholders.

Some are inside the organization, and others can come in from an outside source. Regardless of where stakeholders are located, they will have some influence over decisions and outcomes. The success of a project depends entirely on how different types of stakeholders understand their roles, stay on the same page with each other and work together.

How Stakeholders Contribute

Managing the stakeholders’ expectations will set the stage for a successful project. It’s important that they understand how the project will unfold and how they need to contribute. For example, the stakeholders need to understand:

  • Project scope. Stakeholders must identify which issues the project will address. When stakeholders work toward different goals or communicate on different pages, the assigned project takes longer and runs the risk of getting cancelled. Perhaps more significant, the costs add up substantially when projects take more time.
  • Goals. A review of clearly defined goals will help the stakeholders to understand the anticipated outcome of the project. Further, clear and measurable objectives will shape the direction that stakeholders must take.
  • Potential for compromise. Prepare the stakeholders for the fact that compromises are often required to meet the project’s goals. When a project’s scope and goals are conveyed clearly, teams of stakeholders can work together to complete a project efficiently.
  • Milestones. Stakeholders need to stay involved throughout the life of the project. Identifying milestones, or checkpoints, up front will help stakeholders to understand when project updates will be available.
  • Project team. Team members need to have clear roles. When stakeholders know their responsibilities, they’ll be able to participate and collaborate more fully during the project.
  • The other stakeholders involved. Everyone involved in the project should know who the other types of stakeholders are and what their different roles will be.

Types of Stakeholders in a Project

A project will typically involve several types of stakeholders, and each will have a different perspective and level of influence over the project’s outcome. One step toward achieving that goal centers on assigning clear roles.


Sponsors are typically internal stakeholders. Their role in the project is critical to show upper management support. Sponsors often introduce the project to the organization. They’re also involved in refining a project’s scope, reviewing milestones, removing roadblocks and approving the final deliverables.

Sponsors have a high level of influence. Their support can determine whether a project succeeds or gets tabled.

Project Manager

The project manager is the person who is responsible for planning the many different steps of a project. Other responsibilities include:

  • Assigning tasks and managing the execution of the project.
  • Obtaining necessary resources such as additional team members or computers.
  • Coordinating interaction among team members and stakeholders.
  • Monitoring progress to ensure stakeholders meet project due dates.
  • Collaborating with stakeholders.
  • Resolving problems such as scheduling conflicts or disagreements.
  • Keeping the work within scope and in support of the project’s goals.

All these tasks are performed with the ultimate goal of producing the project deliverables on time and within budget. The deliverables are the recommendations and reports that were promised to the sponsors.

The project manager has a high level of influence. Sponsors don’t have day-to-day involvement, so if the project manager isn’t able to keep the project on track, there’s a good chance it won’t be successful.

Project Team

Establishing an effective project team is important because those team members will be the ones who get the work done and concretely shape a project’s outcome. Team members should possess technical knowledge related to the project’s goals. However, interpersonal and organizational skills are just as important.

For the team to work together effectively, members need good problem-solving skills. They need to be able to analyze a situation and develop in-the-moment and effective solutions. Team members must have constructive, generative mindsets for high quality work to be completed. Otherwise, stale, uninspired and late work will likely be submitted.

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Moreover, team members must have good interpersonal skills. In fact, someone with average technical skills may prove valuable if they’re able to collaborate effectively with others. An article by the Forbes Coaches Council stated that team members should embrace skills like empathy, engaged listening and a clever approach to finding solutions.

Functional Management

In many cases, functional managers will be responsible for carrying out the recommendations that result from a project. Therefore, it’s critical to involve them as much as possible throughout the project. They should also be the conduit to front line employees because they can often identify problems faster than anyone else can.

According to the Forbes Coaches Council, functional managers are expected “to redefine, reinforce, remeasure and readjust all areas required for optimal management performance.” More importantly, they have a high level of influence over the successful implementation of the project’s recommendations.

Business Partners

When business partners are stakeholders, they require a special type of collaboration, and their level of participation in the project can vary. The key to collaborating with them is to identify and communicate how the project will benefit them.

Business partners can have a big influence on the success of a project. Clear communication, transparency and a focus on benefits will help business partners collaborate with the different types of stakeholders proficiently.


Customer data can prove invaluable in defining the overall direction of the project. Organizations that have developed systems to gather and analyze customer data will have a great advantage in satisfying customer requirements.

In fact, research by leading consulting firm McKinsey has shown that companies making extensive use of customer analytics outperform their competitors by a wide margin in sales, sales growth, profit and ROI.

How Stakeholders Become Business Leaders

Stakeholders represent different business perspectives, and they don’t always want the same thing from a project, according to CMS Wire. It’s up to the organization’s leadership to decide which suggestions to implement based on the influence of the stakeholders on the project and outcomes.

If a suggestion doesn’t contribute to meeting the project’s goals, senior management must decide how to approach the stakeholder’s contribution. Depending on the organization’s culture, it might work best to bring the stakeholders together to find some kind of middle ground where parties can reach an agreement over the project’s direction.

Regardless of how management chooses to approach a conflict over a given task, it’s important to ensure the outcomes of the overall project are successful – even if that means the involved stakeholders don’t get everything they want. When business leaders recognize shared ownership and establish a culture that supports effective collaboration among stakeholders, projects will have a much higher potential for success.

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