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Stakeholder register: How to identify, assess, & classify project stakeholders

Your guide to knowing who to talk to — and when.
When you’re deep in the trenches of a project, trying to reach your milestones and hit all your deadlines, it can be easy to forget that you’re not the only one invested. Stakeholders, others in your company who also drive the project, are often heavily invested as well.
can be a critical part of the success of your project and any good management strategy has a way to foster this.

It can be hard as a project manager, to keep track of who everyone is, what their role as a stakeholder is, and what kind of information they require to know how the project is coming along. Sometimes, you get people popping into your inbox asking all kinds of questions (most of them relevant), but you have no idea why they’re asking. Or, worse, you get someone pop into a document while you’re working on it and start commenting (the horror).


That’s why it’s important to create a stakeholder register that gathers all the important information in one place. In case you’re looking for a shortcut, you can use my free
.

What is a stakeholder register?

A stakeholder register is a project management document that contains all the important information about the various stakeholders involved with a project. It helps you identify stakeholders and tells you, among other things, who someone is, what their role is, what their expectations are, and what kind of influence they have over the project (final say on everything, control over a certain section, etc.).

These documents are an important part of the early stages of a project because it helps to identify and classify all the key players (although as you’ll discover they’re helpful throughout the entire project lifecycle). As a project charter of sorts, stakeholder registers help you eliminate any confusion (like “Why is this person in my doc?”) and lets you know who you can turn to when you have questions about something — and it’s an excellent strategy for building stakeholder engagement.

What are the purposes of a stakeholder register?

The main purpose of a stakeholder register is to help you identify the stakeholders of a project and keep their information in an easy-to-find place as part of your management plan. But, it goes beyond that. Stakeholder registers are a part of the larger project management process that helps you manage stakeholders, aids with planning, and helps you define what success looks like in a project.

Let’s explore just how useful this document can be and why you probably shouldn’t skip it.

Stakeholder management

Next to identifying stakeholders and their roles in a project, stakeholder management is the most critical reason for having a register.

Stakeholder management focuses on identifying stakeholders, understanding their needs, and building up solid relationships with them. It helps you keep stakeholders engaged in projects in a meaningful way that fosters advocacy for the project. You may find a power/interest grid, like the one below, helpful when deciding the best way to reach out to stakeholders and how often they want to be included in meetings or receive updates:

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This information can help you create a strong working relationship with new stakeholders, so they know that you’ve got their best interests in mind throughout a project. You can even take this one step further and create a complete stakeholder management plan (PMI has
around this).

Project management and planning

The stakeholder register helps with project management and planning by telling you who’s invested in the project, who the approvers are, and who has the answers to certain questions that you might have. It gives you one place to look for this information, which is especially helpful in the early stages of planning since it makes it easy to figure out who you need to talk to about the project.

And the register works to simplify your stakeholder strategy by identifying when to collect information from the stakeholders about the project, determining who you should work with on your team (because sometimes stakeholders know who in the company is really good at task X), and establishing details like the timeline, deliverables, and successful project completion. The more you understand stakeholder expectations, the easier planning becomes.

Project team formation & responsibilities

We already touched on this slightly in the last section, but stakeholders often play a role in what the project team looks like and the responsibilities of each member of the team. They do this because they often have certain requirements that only specific people can fulfill (this could be because of reasons like having specialized knowledge about products or security features and even having a track record of success with similar projects). Whatever the reason, the more influence stakeholders have over the makeup of your team, the happier they end up being with the final product.

Active communication with stakeholders early in the project planning process can help you nail down their dream team and even come up with some backups, in case of scheduling issues (in fact, stakeholders can often help sort out scheduling issues because of the relationships they build within the company).

Defining project success criteria & objectives

The
, the more likely you are to have a successful project. And, the more you bring in stakeholders to help define what success looks like for your project, the better. Despite this, only 59% of projects define critical success criteria at the beginning of the project.

With a stakeholder register, you know who you can turn to when you need help defining the success of your project and you build up that engagement with stakeholders early in the project, ensuring that they feel personally involved in the project from day one.

Creating a communication plan

Because the stakeholder register contains information about communication preferences and frequency, it can help you create a customized communication plan for each stakeholder in your project. These plans are important because they help you build engagement and keep stakeholders up-to-date on information that is most relevant to their interests.

Communication plans should include information like:
Stakeholder status
- How do they fit into the project ecosystem? Are they an advocate? Neutral? Blocker? This information can be helpful when deciding how much information you provide each stakeholder and how often you provide it. Blockers, for example, may need constant updates to ensure that they’re not slowing things down because they didn't know something. Advocates, on the other hand, may be okay with less frequent updates.
How each stakeholder can help
- This should tell what each stakeholder can do for the project. Maybe they’re great at freeing up resources, maybe they’re really good at putting productive teams together, maybe they have access to tools that you really need. Whatever it is, make sure you note it in the register. This makes it easier for you to solve problems as they come up in the project.
Key messaging
- Each stakeholder is going to need to hear something a little different, so figure out what that is and include it in the register. If you’re not sure, ask them. Stakeholders will gladly tell you what they need to hear when you’re updating them about the project.
Communication method
- What’s the best way to communicate with each stakeholder? Some people are totally fine with a two-line email telling them everything is going well, others are going to need to sit down with you every couple of weeks for an in-depth meeting. The more you speak to stakeholders in the way they prefer, the better the relationship is going to be. You want to ensure that they’re getting all the information they need in a way that works for them.

What is included in a stakeholder register?

Your stakeholder register should contain everything you need to know about the various stakeholders and act almost like a cheat sheet.

You should include details like:
Name
Job title
Role
Engagement level (high, medium, low)
Communication preferences (both method and frequency)
Expectations
How much influence and power they have over the projects.

Along with that, you can include information about concerns they may have about the project (so that you can tailor communication to reduce those concerns), as well as any other relevant information about them or the project itself.

Try my stakeholder register template

How to categorize project stakeholders

Categorizing stakeholders helps you better understand how to work with stakeholders and how much time to devote to each one. A low-level stakeholder, for example, won’t require as much involvement as the CEO. Again, an interest grid like the one above might help you properly categorize your stakeholders. Typically, there are
: users, governance (leadership), influencers, and providers. Each has different requirements, so be sure to work carefully as you classify them.

Stakeholder identification

First, you need to identify who the stakeholders are. This can be a challenge because some of the stakeholders won’t be obvious, but with a little digging and by asking the right questions, you can track them all down. Not only does this help you from a project management standpoint, but it also helps project team members understand the key players in the project.

Stakeholder assessment

What are the requirements of each stakeholder as far as the project is concerned? What are their communication needs and frequency, what are their expectations, how much influence do they have? All of this information is critical when building your stakeholder register because it helps you understand the motivations of the stakeholder and leads to building stronger relationships with them.

Stakeholder classification

Finally, once you’ve identified and assessed the stakeholders, it’s time to classify them based on the information you’ve gathered. Exactly how stakeholders are classified is going to vary depending on your company and the kind of information you’ve gathered, but there should be clear patterns that emerge once you’ve gathered up your data. For example, they can be classified based on the power or influence they hold over the project, whether they’re upper management, if they represent the end user, whether they’re internal or external stakeholders, etc.

This classification helps you understand what needs to be done to grow the relationship with the stakeholders and how much time and energy you should put into fostering that relationship.

Stakeholder register FAQs

Who is a stakeholder?

What are the benefits of using a stakeholder register?

What is the difference between a stakeholder register and a stakeholder analysis?

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