A few months ago I wrote an article describing how stakeholder analysis can be facilitated through risk assessment – the reverse also holds true. The 4th edition of the PMBOK Guide echoes this as a Stakeholder Register is considered one of the inputs into the Identify Risks process.
Ideally, your key stakeholders will all be available to participate in risk identification and analysis workshop, but if they are unable to do so, their impacts on your project must be considered.
Risk is uncertainty that matters, and a large contributor toward project uncertainty are the assumptions that have been made. Some of those assumptions are the perceptions of key stakeholder influences and feelings about your project. You can imagine the negative impacts that might occur if you assumed that a key stakeholder is positively oriented towards your project, when in fact, they are secretly plotting its failure!
This is one of the reasons why successful change projects (regardless of whether those are process, construction or product development in nature) are usually characterized by thorough stakeholder analysis and regular, open communication between the project team and key stakeholders.
Sometimes it may be difficult to get a stakeholder to share their true feelings directly with you or your team – this is a situation that benefits from a positive relationship with your sponsor or with other stakeholders as they may be able to provide you with these insights or may even be willing to meet with a reluctant stakeholder themselves to elicit this information.
If you are unable to get this information, or suspect that a stakeholder may not be as open as you would like, treat them as a source of risk – assess what possible effect they could have on your project’s objectives or constraints, what is the likelihood of them acting in a negative (or positive if we are considering the opportunity-side of risk management) manner, and how best can you detect this situation and respond to it?
It is too easy to focus on your primary customers, your sponsor and your project team when planning & managing a challenging project. The original definition of stakeholder denoted a person who temporarily holds money or property while its owner is being determined. Ignore your stakeholders, and the property you’ll put at peril could be the success of your project!