What is a Stakeholder Analysis, what is the ideal approach and which techniques will work best?
Stakeholder Analysis Definition
Employees and customers, suppliers and partners, trade unions, associations and consumer organisations, capital providers such as owners, silent partners, shareholders or banks, competitors, institutions, authorities or legislators are considered “typical” stakeholders. The stakeholder analysis identifies the most important stakeholders for a project, undertaking or development, their goals, motives and attitudes.
In the course of stakeholder management, the stakeholder analysis follows stakeholder identification. With its help
- supporters and promoters who want to advance a project, can be found,
- opponents, obstacles and resistance that may emanate from certain persons or institutions can be recognised,
- objectives from both supporters and opponents can be identified,
- relationships and conflicts between stakeholders can be highlighted,
- foundation for stakeholder communication can be established.
Challenges of a Stakeholder Analysis
Within the scope of stakeholder analysis, organisations try to collect information about stakeholders in a structured and methodical way. However, since all conceivable information will never be available, findings must be interpreted. There is a danger of subjectivation here.
To reduce the danger of subjectivation, teams often carry out the analyses. Companies must ensure that the findings of stakeholder analysis are not made public outside the team, as this can have negative consequences for the project or product development. Stakeholders could try to exert more influence or obstruct the project just because it is being promoted by someone else.
Stakeholder Analysis as a Snapshot
Requirements often change in the course of a project. Not only do requirements change, stakeholders’ goals and motives can also change. Stakeholder analysis, like stakeholder management as a whole, is therefore always a snapshot. It is therefore important not only to carry it out once at the start of a project – often referred to as a project environment analysis – but also repeatedly.
In the course of the project, you may also identify additional persons and organisations that did not exist at the start of the project or that were overlooked. In development projects, for example, this could be the IT of the client in whose environment you later want to operate your solution.
Tips for Conducting a Stakeholder Analysis
Stakeholder Analysis Techniques
How do you find out what a stakeholder wants? The choice of the best technique depends on the project conditions, the skills of the investigating team and the type of knowledge to be sought:
- Survey techniques help to identify explicit knowledge. Examples of survey techniques are questionnaires and interviews.
- Creativity techniques are used to identify visions of products. Examples of creativity techniques are brainstorming, brainwriting and braindumping. These techniques are often used in the course of workshops.
- Observation techniques are useful in situations that are difficult to describe. Examples of observation techniques are field observation and apprenticing.
- Document centred techniques are used in combination with other techniques. They try to use known solutions in the context of analysis. Examples of document-centered techniques are perspective-based reading and systems archaeology.
Procedure for Stakeholder Analysis
The following procedure is recommended in the course of stakeholder analysis:
- List all persons and organisations by name. In addition to the contact data, record the appropriate communication options and times. Also document the locations.
- Record the influence, attitude and motivation of each stakeholder on the project and its goals. The possibilities of influencing (how easily he can be influenced, how he influences others) should also be described.
- Document the areas of knowledge and contextual experiences. Existing methodological knowledge and expertise should also be written down.
- Evaluate and prioritise each stakeholder.
- Version your findings, because this will allow you to trace changes in projects back to changes in stakeholders at a later stage.
Evaluation of Stakeholders
An important result of stakeholder analysis is the distinction between important and less important stakeholders. You can assess your stakeholders in different categories:
- What influence does the stakeholder have on your project?
- How great is the interest? In order to answer the question, it is a good idea to shed light on the change for the stakeholder: What changes are there in the way he works? What influence will the change have on his future position in the company? What opportunities and risks arise for him?
- What will be the reactions of individuals or organisations? Do you have to reckon with hidden or open resistance due to your project and the changes that accompany it? Or are the consequences for the stakeholder so positive that it promotes and promotes your project?
- How powerful is the stakeholder? When assessing power, it is irrelevant whether he has direct influence like a superior or indirect influence as an external organisation. It is important to recognise that negative effects often lead to demonstrations of power and are difficult to combat.
In most cases, it is sufficient to work with simple gradations such as “low, medium, high”, since these are subjective assessments, so that more detailed gradations would provide little additional insight.
Visualisation with Stakeholder Map
You should record the results of your stakeholder analysis in tabular form, as this enables you to easily document a great deal of detailed information. For a better understanding, it is a good idea to visualize important elements. With a stakeholder map or stakeholder matrix, you can see at a glance which stakeholders have a great deal of influence and interest, but must fear negative effects. Such insights form the basis for your stakeholder communication.
Challenges for Companies
Tips for stakeholder analysis
There are a number of tips to help with stakeholder analysis:
- The result of the analysis is a snapshot. Attitudes, opinions and also influences often change in the course of a project. It is therefore worth questioning the results from time to time and adjusting them if necessary.
- The results of an analysis should not be transferred to other similar projects without verification. Lack of time is no justification for “shortcuts”. There may be a risk of a serious, incorrect classification of stakeholders.
- People tend to have prejudices. Although this is difficult to prevent, a “neutral” stakeholder analysis should be sought.
- Corporate hierarchies are not necessarily an indicator of the influence of people. Particularly in times when leadership is increasingly moving away from roles and positions, it is important to avoid false, hasty judgements.
- Personal relationships may lead to consumption or incorrect judgements. It is therefore advisable to have a “critical” dialogue with colleagues who are also involved in the analysis.
- It is often recommended that stakeholders be grouped together, as this makes it easier, for example, to define joint measures. But: people are individuals. Therefore, grouping or allocation to groups should also be scrutinised from time to time, or even questioned in principle.
- And last but not least: the results of the stakeholder analysis are confidential and not public. There must be clarity about this among those involved.
Stakeholder Analysis as the Basis for Stakeholder Communication
The stakeholder identification and analysis are complete – and what now? How do you communicate with relevant stakeholders? In the course of stakeholder communication, it is advisable to draw up a plan and record how and with what frequency you communicate with whom. In terms of the stakeholder map, this means an increase in communication the greater the stakeholder’s interest and power is. In this way they receive structured feedback and opinions at an early stage. This information is important if you want to shape your project successfully and avoid conflicts. Note that stakeholders are also people with preferences: some prefer meetings, others a one-on-one conversation or a short SMS. In addition, communication should be mutual, i.e. people and organisations should also be able to communicate with you. You should define the ideal framework for this.
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