How to Shape your Stakeholders


Damiano Bragantini, PMP®, Agsm Distribuzione

Davide Ferrante, Accenture

Northern Italy


In common practice at least 70% of project manager time is dedicated to communication and some sources suggest a higher percentage close to 90% (Bourne, 2009). Communication (from the Latin cum = with, and munire = bind, build, and always from the Latin communico = to share, to participate) is sharing something with someone and stakeholders are precisely those with whom such sharing should be implemented. It is therefore evident that stakeholder management is strictly linked with communication. And vice versa: the communication is sharing information to and from stakeholders. To be successful the Project Manager should be able to correctly associate the risks to the various stakeholders in order to plan not only a response to the risk but also a method of communication in respect of the same stakeholders. The stakeholder shape tool (StSh) combining the risk identification phase with the stakeholders identification phase allows a better understanding of the link between risk management and stakeholder management; associating the relationship and agreement values the StSh make it easier for the Project Manager to decide the right communication approach for each stakeholders.

Communication and stakeholders

As stated by PMI (2012), one of the interpersonal skills of a project manager is communication. But, also, PMI (2008) observe how “the most important competence, however, is communication” and again “Communication is the primary tool for managing stakeholders” (PMI, 2008, p. 241).

No doubt, therefore, that must be understood not only the importance of communication as a personal competence or skills but also and overall the importance of communication as a prime mover in the execution of a project (or program or portfolio). And to do this it is necessary to carefully analyze and detail the principles of communication in the application of project management. The three processes identified by PMI (2012) with regard to communication are: plan communications management, manage communications and control communications. Without going into the detail of the argument, the communication process should meet the following steps: “1. Determine goals – 2. Identify target audiences – 3. Determine resources – 4. Identify key messages – 5. Determine channels of communication – 6. Budget – 7. Evaluation (impact assessment)” (EU, 2013).

The communication process is undoubtedly complicated and it is for this reason that many projects fail. The communication is the prime mover for a successful project: fostering communication between stakeholders can lead to a better understanding (Jensen and Uddameri, 2009). And without doubt, communication is a process and an activity common to all stakeholders. “Competent communicators should also be able to use communication behaviours to organize their work process” (Keyton et al, 2013).

With the aim of a better focus on stakeholders communication, in 2012, was presented a tool called The Stakholder Shape (Bragantini, 2012).

The tool provides to complement the stakeholders identification phase with the risks identifying phase and to tightly integrate the two processes to use some information related to the stakeholders in terms of communication to restate a priority/importance of stakeholders themselves. In fact, it is quite normal to think of a scale of stakeholders on the basis of some of their specific characteristics (eg power/interest, (Kamann, 2007)) and then act accordingly in terms of approach with regard to the same stakeholders. At these approved methodologies, the Stakeholders Shape adds an interesting methodology that allows to associate to stakeholders the impact that each may have in the occurrence of a specified risk, thus resulting in a scale of importance in relation to the problems that can make the project fail. PMI defines risk as “An uncertain event or condition that, if occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives” (PMI, 2012). For the purpose of this paper we assume another definition of risk that is “A “risk” is a problem that could cause some loss or threaten the success of your project, but which hasn’t happened again” (Kaur et al., 2013). In the PMI vision this mean only event or condition that affect negatively the project.

In addition to the above, the Stakeholders Shape tool reprocesses the information collected about stakeholders by using an algorithm that enhances the aspects regarding the communication such as the agreement of the stakeholder in the project (and hence the possible need to negotiate) and the relationship that you can have with the stakeholder (and hence the necessity to understand and improve the relationship of mutual respect and trust).

We would like to underline that the purpose of this paper is not to dwell on a subject (communication) so vast and complex, but rather to indicate to the project manager a tool that can interact with the process of communication, outlining the most appropriate flow of communication for each stakeholder.


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Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the PMI Global Congress 2014 EMEA in Abu Dhabi, UAE and included in the congress Proceedings.  It is republished here with permission of the authors.

About the Authors 

damiano-bragantiniDamiano Bragantini flag-italy


Damiano Bragantini is a Civil Engineer with more 15 years of experience in Civil Infrastructure and Information Technology experience. Currently he is working with Agsm Group, an important Italian utility in generation, distribution and supply of electricity and gas. Mr. Bragantini is also a recognized teacher at the University of Liverpool (UK) where he teaches in project management MSc.   Mr. Bragantini is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI). He has been also actively involved with Project Management Institute (PMI) as a final Exposure Draft Reviewer for Project Cost Estimating Standard and Practice Standard for Earned Value and as internal reviewer of PMBOK Fifth Edition. Mr.Bragantini has also been actively involved and is still involved with the local PMI Northern Italy Chapter, where he has been a contributor to some projects. Damiano Bragantini can be contacted at damiano.bragant[email protected].

pmwj24-jul2014-Bragantini-AUTHOR2 FERRANTEDavid Ferrante flag-italy


Davide Ferrante with a bachelor’s degree in Management Engineering has worked as an intern in AGSM Distribution, a company dealing with distribution and metering of electricity and natural gas.  Mr. Ferrante also worked for four years for a company specialized in communication and marketing where he organized and coordinated various advertising campaigns.  He was awarded at the Logistic Game (first Italian logistics championship) where teams from different universities were challenged on problem solving skills. He also was awarded in developing a start-up in e-commerce area. Davide works for Accenture and can be contacted at [email protected]