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Successful IT systems
Successful IT systems

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4.2 Identifying stakeholder groups

In thinking about who the stakeholders might be, a good starting point is to ask:

  • Who is affected positively or negatively by the project to build the system?
  • Who will gain from the system and who will lose from it across a range of gains such as material, financial, status, power, influence and the like?
  • Who might want it to succeed and who might want it to fail?
  • Who has the power to cause the project to succeed or to fail?
  • Who controls or provides the resources and facilities that will be needed?
  • Who are the key suppliers you will need to buy from?
  • Who has the special skills needed to make it succeed?
  • Who are the positive and negative opinion leaders?
  • Who exercises influence over other stakeholders?
  • Who are the less obvious stakeholders you have not considered yet?

For example, a new IT system that will automatically record and track the progress of production jobs through a factory will have among its stakeholders:

  • all those people who record, collate and distribute the data under the old system (e.g. operatives, sales staff)
  • all those people who receive data under the old system (e.g. planners, accountants and the managers of operatives and sales staff)
  • anyone who uses the data as information for decision making (e.g. production and warehouse managers)
  • those who design and implement the new system, and to some extent those involved in the old system (e.g. information systems and IT specialists, programmers)
  • suppliers
  • any people who maintain the old system or who will maintain the new one
  • senior managers who grant the resources needed for the project
  • anyone who championed some other project that did not get resources because they went to this project
  • the customers for the factory’s products.

Trying to identify less obvious stakeholders is very important. It is all too easy to confine a stakeholder analysis to ‘the usual suspects’ such as those listed in Table 4. Another point to be aware of is that organisations and people can be identified as stakeholders but ultimately you can only communicate with people so will become necessary to identify the most appropriate individual stakeholders within a stakeholder organisation so that you can work with them. It is also the case that changes may occur over time with new stakeholders emerging and others ceasing to have a role.

Table 4 Commonly identified stakeholders (Source: Davis, 2013, p. 11)
Stakeholder groupStakeholders
Senior managementSenior management board, director, executive, executive management, investor, project executive, portfolio director, programme director, owner, senior management, sponsor, top management, project sponsor
Project core teamEngineer, other organisational involvement (e.g. business departments), project leader, project manager, project personnel, project team leader, project team, team members
Project recipientClient, consumer, customer, end users, users

Activity 8

Timing: 15 minutes

Suggest two refinements you could make to the recipient group to make it more comprehensive.


The two we would add are potential customers you are hoping to attract and the key customers of customers.

In the context of IT systems, Dix et al. (2004) provide a useful distinction between stakeholders. They identify four classes:

  • Primary stakeholders − people who will actually use the system – the end-users.
  • Secondary stakeholders − people who do not directly use the system, but receive output from it or provide input to it (for example, someone who receives a report produced by the system).
  • Tertiary stakeholders − people who do not fall into either of the first two categories but who are directly affected by the success or failure of the system (for example, a director whose profits increase or decrease depending on the success of the system).
  • Facilitating stakeholders − people who are involved in the design, development and maintenance of the system.
(Dix et al., 2004, p. 459)