Identifying and Classifying Program/Project Stakeholders


By Alan Stretton 

Sydney, Australia


There is substantial material in the program/project literature on program and project stakeholder management/engagement. This article amalgamates and summarises some of the most relevant material concerned with the identification and classification of program/project stakeholders.

Regarding stakeholder identification, I develop a model which is essentially an amalgamation of program/project stakeholders from four different sources.  This provides a reasonably detailed checklist of potential stakeholders for an organization, and for its programs/projects.

Regarding stakeholder classifications, I start by identifying some two-type program/project stakeholder classifications, which may be useful in different contexts:

  • Distinguishing between supply chain stakeholders and direct/indirect horizontal relationships
  • Distinguishing between primary (or internal) and secondary (or external) stakeholders
  • Distinguishing between proponent (“beneficiary”) and opponent (“adversarial”) stakeholders 

This is followed by discussions of some four-type stakeholder classifications. These discussions include the mapping of program/project stakeholders, particularly in the context of power/interest diagrams, which essentially develop a four-type stakeholder classification. Methods of quantifying stakeholders’ powers/interests, and plotting them on diagrams, are then discussed, along with some basic strategies related to these four types.

The aim of this paper is to help guide people who are interested in identifying and classifying stakeholders towards sources which examine some of these aspects in more detail. 


The importance of identifying all the stakeholders to a program/project cannot be overstated. There are too many well documented cases of programs/projects being stalled or abandoned because of failures to identify and then engage stakeholders who had sufficient power and/or support to cause such stalling or abandonment.

We start with the most comprehensive coverage of potential stakeholders that I could develop, which is based on a framework relating to organizational stakeholders, supplemented with materials from three sources in the program/project literature. 


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Editor’s note: 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 published in the May 2010 edition of PM World Today.  It is republished here with the author’s permission. 

About the Author 

flag-ukalan-strettonAlan Stretton, PhD     

Faculty Corps, University of Management

and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)

Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia) 

Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published over 140 professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at [email protected].