Project stakeholder

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People involved in Projects

In project management, the term "stakeholder" has prevailed over the term "project participants" or "interest groups". Stakeholder is made up of the words "stake", which means "interest" or "involvement", and "holder", which means "owner" or "proprietor". It is therefore roughly understood to mean people or groups who have an interest in the implementation of a project or the project outcome, as they are directly or indirectly affected by it.

They are relevant for a project, an initiative or an entire company, as they can influence the result through positive or negative activities.

Definition of stakeholder

The term was popularized by the American economist R. Edward Freeman in his book Strategic Management - A Stakeholder Approach, which was published in 1984. With his Stakeholder Theory (Stakeholder Approach), he formulated a then new entrepreneurial view of stakeholders: a company should create value for all stakeholders, not just for shareholders.

The term is defined slightly differently in project management:

Stakeholder according to DIN 69901-5:2009

Stakeholders are seen as the "totality of all project participants, affected parties and interested parties whose interests are directly or indirectly affected by the course or outcome of the project".

Stakeholders according to ISO 21500:2012

Stakeholders are "persons, groups or organizations who have an interest in the project or who are affected by or can influence the project or parts of it."

Stakeholder definition according to PMBOK Guide

Stakeholders are "persons, groups or organizations that may affect, be affected by, or perceive themselves to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project, program, or portfolio."

Stakeholder meaning according to IPMA

Stakeholders are "all persons, groups or organizations who are involved in, influence, are influenced by or are interested in the execution or outcome of a project."

Stakeholder definition according to Scrum

In the Scrum Guide by Scrum founders Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, stakeholders are "people with an interest in the project outside the Scrum team."

With the exception of Scrum, project leadership and the project team are also considered stakeholders in all common project management guidelines.

What types of stakeholders are there?

Stakeholders can be both internal and external and include a wide range of participants, such as

  • Employees: those who work for the company and are dependent on the company's success.
  • Customers: Those who use the company's products or services.
  • Suppliers: Companies or individuals who provide goods or services.
  • Communities: Local communities affected by the company's business activities or by public administration projects.
  • Government authorities: Authorities that set and enforce the legal framework.
  • Investors: Persons or institutions that have invested capital in the company (including shareholders).

The GPM German Association for Project Management distinguishes not only between internal stakeholders and external stakeholders, but also between factual stakeholders and social stakeholders. Stakeholder management primarily focuses on social stakeholders.

  Internal External
  • Company agreement
  • PM manual
  • QM manual
  • Guidelines
  • Turnover development
  • Laws
  • Norms and standards
  • Request for Comments (RFCs)
  • Market development
  • Works Council
  • Representative
  • Management Board, Head of Department
  • Steering committee members
  • Employees outside the project
  • Project leadership and project team
  • Client/customer
  • Employees of the client organization
  • Suppliers
  • Employees of the competition

In practice, this categorization can have an eye-opening effect if you take a look at the objective stakeholders and ask yourself which people or interest groups are behind them.

Due to its enormous relevance, stakeholder management, which consists of stakeholder identification, stakeholder analysis, stakeholder strategy development and stakeholder communication, has become established. Regardless of which project management method is used, the stakeholder approach is one of the biggest factors determining the success or failure of projects.

Stakeholder vs shareholder

There is a risk of confusion here: a stakeholder and a shareholder are not the same thing. The term shareholder refers to people or groups who own shares in a company and have a primarily financial interest in the success of the company, as they benefit from dividends and increases in the share price. They also have the right to vote at general meetings and therefore have a direct influence on company decisions.

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