Building a Stakeholder Assessment Grid

There are many ways to analyze and take the measure of your project stakeholders. One technique I particularly like is a stakeholder assessment grid. This team-based method allows you to identify and prioritize stakeholders and organizations for your projects prior to beginning detailed requirements definition. This allows the group to work together, visually represent the stakeholders, and assess the level of influence and involvement that individual stakeholders and stakeholder groups should have for your project. Information gleaned from this technique can be populated into a matrix worksheet or other tool for future use. It can also be used to build your stakeholder list defining roles and responsibilities. 

Here are the basic steps you should use to identify and assess project stakeholders using a stakeholder grid:

  1. Brainstorm the involved organizations and key individual stakeholders, and try not to miss anyone. 
  2. Seek other inputs to identify stakeholder organizations, such as organization charts and lists of stakeholders from previous projects.  Remember that project stakeholder information may come from the executive management team, senior management, and senior technical staff or subject-matter experts in the identified stakeholder organizations. It can also be found in such secondary information as organization charts, phone lists, and seating charts.
  3. Recognize there are two points of view – the stakeholder’s assessment of their project role and the project team’s evaluation of the stakeholder’s role. These two perspectives may not always be the same.
  4. Note all involved organizations on sticky notes and slap them up on the wall for everyone to look at and discuss.     Then remove duplicates and look for the missing pieces (and missing people).  Once all the stakeholders are identified, they can be further segmented into proponents, neutrals, and resistors if necessary. 
  5. Prioritize and assess the involved stakeholders and their organizations relative to the system, product, or project being defined.
  6. Build a stakeholder assessment grid with grid axes such as Influence/Interest or Power/Concern.  Influence is the degree of influence a stakeholder has over what is being defined or done within the project while interest indicates how the stakeholders are affected by the success of what is being defined or done.  Power is the stakeholder’s ability to contribute or withhold resources and/or to accept or reject outcomes and concern reflects their technical and social impacts and perceptions of the project and its desired outcome. Here is an example of such a grid on the wall as a work in progress:

When everyone is happy with the results, you should convert the stakeholder grid data to a matrix (perhaps in a spreadsheet) and assign numeric values to the matrix ratings to create a weighted scale. This allows you to build a prioritized ranking of your involved project stakeholders that can be used across the project life cycle. Don’t forget to revisit this list for each project phases (at a minimum) to make sure no new stakeholders appear for that phase.  Keep an eye out for any existing stakeholders that change priority as the project life cycle progresses based upon the work that is being performed.

This technique works equally well for [project managers and business analysts on almost any type or size of project. Getting the project team to collaborate and other folks to participate in stakeholder identification and assessment results in a usable stakeholder list and a practical view of who the project team will be working with across the project life cycle.

Happy stakeholder analysis!

Susan Weese

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