Selecting the Right Project Stakeholders

Direct users and their corresponding managers are not the only possible stakeholders in a project. It can be argued, and rightly so, that a project stakeholder can be any person who is a direct user, indirect user, senior manager, manager of users, auditor, or any other individual in a given organization that can be potentially affected by the deployment and development of a new software project.In order to achieve success, we must understand their specific requirements and bring their visions to life.

This is one of the toughest things for software development teams to realize. Every project stakeholder varies – everyone has different visions, requirements, and priorities. However, this challenge is what makes this industry so exciting. Selecting the right stakeholders for your team is a crucial step in the development process, regardless of organization. Engaging the right individuals in the right way can ultimately lead to the success of your project.

Why is Stakeholder Participation Important?

The majority of people are not very good at defining what they want from a project. Their visions are not always aligned with their expressions. Instead, they tell us what they think they want, and when we present them with options they tell us what they like and dislike about those options.

It is our job to work with project stakeholders to identify their requirements, produce something that reflects our understanding of those requirements, get their feedback, and then ultimately update our end-solutions to reflect our upgraded understanding of their needs.

If our job is to provide solutions to the needs of stakeholders, then we must look for collaborative and evolutionary ways that we can work closely and regularly with them. We need stakeholders that are going to be engaged in our projects and help define its requirements.

Choosing the Right Stakeholders

Identifying the right stakeholders is a critical step in any software project. Imagine buying an engagement ring, planning a big wedding, and then proposing to your significant other. In the software development world, this is the equivalent of initiating a project without identifying the right stakeholders.

When selecting stakeholders, the best place to start is with the project sponsor. In a perfect world, this is the same person who is funding the project, understands what the project will ultimately deliver, and can get your team staffed.

The project sponsor can help you identify who the additional stakeholders are if you ask that right questions. Chat with him or her as well as your managers and peers about who the project will ultimately affect.

A potential group of stakeholders will be involved in creating the end-solution. This group includes analysts, developers, designers, testers, managers, etc.The next group that must be identified is arguably the most important – end-users. There are two types of people in this group, internal and external users.

Internal end-users will usually be located inside your organization or the project sponsor’s organization. External end-users are a little harder to identify, as they can be anyone else in the world. The Internal users will be your most important stakeholders. They will help you identify the external user’s requirements. They are also the individuals who will be utilizing your solution once it is fully developed. Their role as project stakeholders is to tell you what they want your solution to do, how they want it to look, what they need to know from it, and the way that they would prefer to interact with it.

The third group of stakeholders can be referred to as special interest groups. These are the people that have jurisdiction over certain aspects of the business. Typically, something in their department has to change in order for your solution to work. Their responsibility is to place limitations on your project based on their specific interests. They will play a large role in determining what you can and cannot do.


Project stakeholders should be trustworthy, active contributors who will work with your team to achieve common goals. They should be willing to attend reviews and product feedback meetings. It is very important to understand why their involvement is crucial, and how it will directly influence your project. After you have done your assessment, you should be ready to justify why the stakeholders you have chosen will have an impact on you project.