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How to Do a Stakeholder Analysis & Win Project Support

The success of a project isn't about the return on investment or perfect PowerPoint pitch. While these are helpful, it's more important to gain support from the stakeholders affected by your project. With a stakeholder analysis, you understand your audience to tailor your approach to success.

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A stakeholder analysis helps you align your proposal to win over key supporters. (Graphic source: Envato Elements.)

You rely on the input and involvement of others. By focusing on stakeholder analysis, you can win the support of even the toughest groups. A proper stakeholder analysis unlocks insight on each person's involvement and influence. This, in turn, leads to the success of your business project. 

We’re going to take a full look at stakeholder analysis. We’ll explore “what is stakeholder analysis” and then help you start using the techniques on your own. It’s the best way to plan for business success in 2022. Let’s dive in.

How to Do a Stakeholder Analysis & Win Project Support

So, you know you need to do a stakeholder analysis so that everyone's role is considered. What steps should you take? We'll walk you through it.

Let's walk through how to identify stakeholders. We'll divide them into groups and consider their roles as part of the next steps in your work.

What Is a Stakeholder?

Before tackling stakeholder analysis, it pays to learn what "stakeholder” means. While you can find complex definitions, the reality is very simple.

A stakeholder is someone holding an interest in a given business or project. Keep in mind, this isn't just a financial an interest. An employee is a stakeholder in their employer, as is an investor in that business. Even the community around a business is a stakeholder in its actions.

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A stakeholder is anyone with an interest in your initiative. (Image source: Envato Elements.)
For too long, the term "stakeholder' has been used as a synonym for "shareholder." While shareholders have a legal and financial interest in a company, it's crucial to consider a wider range of involvement.

Stakeholders can also exist outside of the business field. If you're rallying neighborhood support for a new playground, you've got stakeholders too.

Think of it this way: if you’re trying to do something, anyone who is affected is a stakeholder. Learning to identify stakeholders is as simple as surveying the situation.

This is where stakeholder analysis comes in. Most successful ventures lean on the power of persuasion. You may need help with specific tasks. You might need employees, or you could be looking for investors.

A blind approach won’t work. You need to adopt a targeted model to successfully bring stakeholders onto your team. Stakeholder analysis is the way to do just that.

What Is Stakeholder Analysis?

Stakeholder analysis is the art of identifying stakeholders and their roles. It’s important to keep in mind that stakeholder analysis itself won’t win anyone over.

Instead, it’s the process of gathering data about your stakeholders. Your approach to them is called stakeholder management. Think of stakeholder analysis as an enabling step to eventually engage your stakeholders.

Stakeholder analysis is critical because stakeholder management requires a personalized approach. Different stakeholders, by definition, hold different interests in your project. To win them over, you need to target them with details that matter to them. 

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Understanding your audience and how they relate to your objective is the core of stakeholder analysis. (Image source: Envato Elements.)

When you think of how to identify stakeholders, imagine a funnel.

  1. You’ll begin by identifying all stakeholders in your project.
  2. Then, your focus begins to narrow. You’ll identify the specifics of each stakeholder: who they are, and what they can do.
  3. Finally, you’ll decide which stakeholders are most important.
  4. You’ll rank their relative power, which tells you the order in which to approach them.

When you follow this approach, you remove the mystery of stakeholder analysis. Consider this: stakeholders are the audience that you seek to win over. What is stakeholder analysis other than the art of getting to know them better? It sets you up to speak each stakeholder in a personalized fashion.

We’ve just answered the question “what is stakeholder analysis?” Now, we’ll focus on the key steps to do it successfully. 

How to Analyze Stakeholders (For a Successful Project)

What is stakeholder analysis? We learned that it’s the task of identifying stakeholders, their roles, and their power. Notice that this is really a three-step process. In essence, it's got three key elements:

  1. identity
  2. role
  3. importance.

By following these steps in order, you can perform a stakeholder analysis and set yourself up to succeed in your next project. Now, let’s explore the main steps to learn how to analyze stakeholders.

1. Identify All Stakeholders in Your Project

Each of these and more are stakeholders in your project:

  • potential investors
  • customers
  • vendors
  • contractors
  • employees

Again, a stakeholder is anyone with an interest in your project or business. The first step in stakeholder analysis is identifying all these stakeholders. 

For small projects, stakeholder analysis may be a quick and easy task. But for larger ventures, it can become complex.

Imagine that you’re managing a large, multinational project. Your stakeholders will expand far beyond employees and investors. It may include:

  • government agencies
  • public interest organizations
  • the general public
  • and more

On a large enough scale, some projects may find that every person on Earth is a stakeholder. 

It helps to adopt a classification system if you've got many stakeholders. Key project personnel and investors should be identified individually. Other groups with peripheral involvement can be classified in more general terms.

When you think of how to identify stakeholders, consider this. A good rule is to be thorough, but not exhaustive. Spend too much time chasing every stakeholder, and your project will never go forward. 

2. Classify Stakeholders by What They Do (Role)

As you can see, a stakeholder analysis begins by grouping all stakeholders together. Once you've identified them, you need to start classifying stakeholders. This can be a simple step, or you can apply more advanced criteria. The goal is to determine exactly how and why each stakeholder has an interest in your project.

Here are examples of stakeholder classification to spark your thinking:

  • Employees are often called primary internal stakeholders. You might think of them as your resources to achieve your goals, but they depend on the company as well. You need their services, in the form of labor and creative ideas. They need financial compensation, benefits, and a comfortable work environment.
  • Potential investors have a financial interest. This means that you'll ask them for funding or investment. It's important to tailor your approach accordingly.
  • The community is a stakeholder in your business as well. It depends on businesses to contribute to its well-being.
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Start by classifying the stakeholders based on their relationship to your project. (Image source: Envato Elements.)

Other stakeholders may be more difficult to classify. Let’s return to our example of the general public. Imagine that your project involves building a large shopping center near residential homes. Those homeowners - members of the public - are certainly stakeholders. They could enjoy the convenience. Or they might resent a commercial structure near their home. Either way, they're important stakeholders too. 

Whether stakeholders have positive or negative interests, you need to identify and classify them all. If you don’t, you run two simultaneous risks:

  1. Failing to recognize a positive interest leaves valuable contributions on the table.
  2. Ignoring those with a negative interest can lead to problems later on. 

With classification, you can get a picture of exactly who has interests in your project. Doing this sets you up for the key final step: identifying who to approach, and when. 

3. Rank Stakeholders by Relative Power (Importance)

Need the key in how to analyze stakeholders? Analyze them by relative power and influence. If you've got hundreds of stakeholders, you can't directly engage with each individually. Instead, prioritize them. This matches your most critical needs with your most critical stakeholders.

For example, if you need to raise funds, investors become your most important stakeholders. But if you've got plenty of cash on hand, but no labor, prospective employees should be your focus.

Consider these questions as you perform your stakeholder analysis:

  • Who decides if my project is approved? Typically, an approver gives a "go" or "no-go" to the kickoff of a project. They should be convinced that there are benefits to the project.
  • Who will do the majority of the work on the project? A project is only as good as the people working on it. They need to believe in it to feel motivated to use it for success.
  • Who will review a project's progress? Again, most projects have checkpoints to ensure that they're on track. These stakeholders are powerful stewards who may help you speed up your project or issue a halt if not presented properly.
  • Who will be affected by the project's results? For example, putting in a new invoicing system will only succeed if users can easily navigate it. Consider the end-user a powerful stakeholder to your success.

Ensure that you can map your stakeholders based on the power that they hold. You can tailor your approach at every step.

It's only natural that you'll invest the majority of your time in stakeholders who hold the most power. But keep in mind, these change over the course the project. Power shifts from "approvers" to "doers." Understanding each as part of your stakeholder analysis is so crucial.

Stepping Back on Stakeholder Analysis

In summary, stakeholder analysis is "getting to know your audience." Think of these three steps as you begin yours:

  1. Determine what you need to focus on to bring your project to life. Maybe that's funding, or maybe it's more talent to grow your team's capabilities. First acknowledging the need helps you tailor your approach. 
  2. Then, match your needs with the results of your stakeholder classification. When both align, you’ve reached an action plan. You’ve identified all stakeholders. You’ve classified them by who they are, and what they do. And finally, you’ve found those who can be most beneficial to your project.
  3. Create an action plan as the result of your stakeholder analysis. This action plan is the end result of stakeholder analysis. Now, it’s time to make a direct approach. Through stakeholder analysis, you now know exactly who to talk to. Craft your message, refine your technique, and get ready to bring your project to life.

Here's a hands-on example of garnering support with an audience-driven presentation:

Envato Elements (Unlimited Design Ideas)

Wondering how to analyze stakeholders in style? Need the perfect tools to get started? Turn to the creative library at Envato Elements. 

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Use Envato Elements for designs to analyze and share your stakeholder analysis.

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Stakeholder Analysis Made Easy (In 2022)

In this article, you’ve learned the art of stakeholder analysis. It’s the key process you use to find those most important to your project’s success. Identify stakeholders, then classify them by their interests and backgrounds. This helps relate each stakeholder to their purpose on the project.

Although it may seem daunting, think of stakeholder analysis as its own investment. By knowing who cares about your projects, you can help ensure the success of the project. Start your stakeholder analysis to enable your success - and the success of others.

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