What is a Stakeholder?

According to PMBOK 5th Edition, a stakeholder is an individual, an organization or an entity who will affect, be affected or perceive themselves to be affected by a decision, activity or an outcome of a particular project. Based on the stakeholder category, their interest towards the project and the level of impact they will be exerting on the project or be exerted on them by the project may vary.

It is an essential and a critical requirement to identify necessary stakeholders at the early phases of the project. Once identified, their level of interest, impact and their expectations need to be analyzed with regards to their importance and influential power towards the project. It is important for the project manager to successfully identify all the stakeholders in order to maintain and focus on a good relationship (Refer Stakeholder Management).

If the project is small, then the number of stakeholders is less and if the project is large, then the number of stakeholders is more. In order to manage stakeholders in a large project, it is important for the project manager to maintain a steady communication channel with every stakeholder in order to drive the project towards success.

There are few categories of stakeholders as identified by PMBOK 5th Edition. Among them, Internal and External stakeholders are considered main categories.

Internal Stakeholders

Internal stakeholder are groups or individuals who are working within / internal to the project organization.

  • Project team
  • Program / portfolio manager
  • Sponsor
  • Client / customer
  • Management of the project organization

External Stakeholders

External stakeholders are groups or individuals who are external to the project organizations

  • An external customer
  • Vendor / Subcontractor
  • Government
  • End users of the project outcome

Apart from internal and external categorization, there are few other groupings named upon project stakeholders.

Direct and Indirect stakeholders

Direct stakeholders are concerned with the day-to-day project activities while Indirect stakeholders are concerned with the outcome of the project.

Positive and Negative stakeholders

Positive stakeholders look at the positive vision of the project and they support to drive the project towards success. Negative stakeholders look at the project in a negative manner and they are less likely to support the project.

Stakeholder Categorization
Stakeholder Categorization

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