Stakeholder Identification and Prioritisation


Series on Effective Stakeholder Engagement

By Lynda Bourne, PhD

Melbourne, Australia


Whilst the old adage ‘you cannot manage what you cannot measure’ may not be true in every circumstance, ESEI stakeholder management benefits from knowing who is in the community, understanding who is important, and deciding what do you need to do to improve the overall supportiveness of the people affected by your project, program or business activity (the work).

Applying disciplined Stakeholder Analytics is the key to efficient and effective stakeholder engagement. You start by establishing a baseline, and then decide who within the community is important at ‘this point in time’; and for these important stakeholders, what needs to be done to either maintain their support or improve their attitude towards the work. Subsequent reviews will tell you whether your engagement efforts are being successful; and if they are not working, alert you to situations where a change in approach is needed.

Analysing your stakeholder community will always involve a degree of subjectivity, but applying the ideas described in this article will go a long way towards establishing normalised data that can be relied on to inform actions and decisions.


The first step in developing an effective stakeholder register is simply identifying the people, groups and organisations that can affect, or will be affected by the work, including those who merely perceive they will be affected.

The process of stakeholder identification focuses on developing a complete list of stakeholders with their key attributes, including:

  • A unique name (this may be a personal name, position/title or group name)
  • Their role relative to the project
  • Their ‘direction of influence’ relative to the Project Manager
    • Upwards (eg, management or the project control group)
    • Outwards (eg, suppliers, the general public, or government agencies)
    • Sideways (eg, peers and colleagues of the Project Manager – typically working for the same organization)
    • Downwards (eg, the project team, usually including contractors working as part of the team)
  • Is the stakeholder Internal or External to the performing organization’s management and staff structure? Both the opportunities and the way of communicating with internal stakeholders are likely to be different from the way communications are managed with external stakeholders.
  • Mutuality; your assessment of what the stakeholder wants from the project and what the project needs from the stakeholder. Identifying and managing stakeholder expectations (requirements) are a key part of effective stakeholder management. Understanding what the stakeholder requires from the project helps in the negotiations to obtain the support the project needs from the stakeholder. To determine the two sides of mutuality you need to assess what is the stakeholder’s:
    • ‘Stake’ in the project? The stakeholders stake may be finical, reputational, protecting or enhancing some ‘right’ or ‘property’ owned by the stakeholder, or simply positional.
    • Importance to the project? What does the project needs from the stakeholder?
    • Requirements from the project? What does the stakeholder expect or require from the project?
  • Contact information for use in communication:
    • Email
    • Telephone
    • Address, etc.
  • Notes and comments

Developing this list can start with a document review, many stakeholders are identified in business cases, contracts, procurement documents, and the like. However, reviewing and completing the list is best done by a small team consisting of the Project Manager, a senior manager (possibly the Sponsor), the client (if possible), and one or two domain experts. A team of around 5 people with diverse experience and views of the work and its environment seems to work best.The list should be completed, checked and reviewed before starting on the next step in the process, prioritisation.


To read entire article (click here)

Editor’s note: This series of articles on effective project stakeholder engagement is by Lynda Bourne, PhD, Managing Director of Stakeholder Pty Ltd (Australia) and author of the books Stakeholder Relationship Management and Advising Upwards, both published by Gower (UK). Dr. Bourne is one of the world’s leading authorities on program/project stakeholder relations. See her author profile below.     


About the Author



Dr. Lynda Bourne

Melbourne, Australia




Dr. Lynda Bourne
is Managing Director of Stakeholder Management Pty Ltd – an Australian based company with partners in South America and Europe. Through this global network she works with organisations to manage change through managing the relationships essential for successful delivery of organisational outcomes.   Lynda was the first graduate of the RMIT University, Doctor of Project Management course, where her research was focused on tools and techniques for more effective stakeholder engagement. She has been recognized in the field of project management through her work on development of project and program management standards. She was also included in PMI’s list of 50 most influential women in PM.

She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) and a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society (ACS). She is a recognized international speaker and seminar leader on the topic of stakeholder management, the Stakeholder Circle® visualization tool, and building credibility and reputation for more effective communication.   She has extensive experience as a Senior Project Manager and Project Director specializing in delivery of information technology and other business-related projects within the telecommunications sector, working as a Senior IT Project Management Consultant with various telecommunications companies in Australia and South East Asia (primarily in Malaysia) including senior roles with Optus and Telstra.

Dr Bourne’s publications include: Stakeholder Relationship Management, now in 2nd edition, published in 2009, Advising Upwards published in 2011, and Making Projects Work, published in 2015. She has also contributed to books on stakeholder engagement, and has published papers in many academic and professional journals and is blogger for PMI’s Voices on Project Management.

Dr. Bourne can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Lynda Bourne, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-lynda-bourne/