Preparing a project
Preparing a project

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Preparing a project

6 The stakeholders and their interests

Anyone in the organisation, or outside it, who has or might have a legitimate interest in the project and its outputs or outcomes, is a stakeholder. You need to identify these people and groups so that you can make sure you meet their expectations and manage the influence they may wish to exert over the progress of the project. Particularly important among the stakeholders will be:

  • the project sponsor – the person or group who set up the project, authorised the resources and put you in charge of it;

  • the project team – the group of people who are going to carry out the tasks and activities;

  • functional managers and others who control resources you will need or whose expertise may be useful;

  • influential individuals or groups who are likely to be affected by the project and its outcomes.

Depending on the nature of the project, many other groups or individuals may have a stake in it, such as:

  • consumers, customers, users of services or products;

  • other staff in the same or other departments;

  • managers and staff of partner or collaborating organisations;

  • the senior management team of your organisation;

  • shareholders or their representatives;

  • elected members (if you are working in a local government context);

  • trustees (if the project involves a charitable trust);

  • members of the public (especially if you are managing a high-profile project involving a new service or a new building);

  • media representing public interest;

  • competing organisations.

Each of these stakeholders is likely to have different expectations of the project and thus different criteria for its success. These may be overt or covert, and they may conflict with one another. You need to ensure that, as far as possible, the goals and objectives of the project take all these criteria into account, because this is how your success will be measured.

Activity 4

0 hours 10 minutes

Consider the different views each of these stakeholders might have of the three key dimensions of a project. Put a tick to indicate which dimension(s) each stakeholder might think is the most important from their personal perspective.

Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


The sponsor usually focuses on the budget and the outcomes – what return is achieved for the investment? What financial risks are involved and is it achieving value for money? As the outcomes are produced, the focus of a sponsor may change to concern about the quality, about ensuring that the outcomes are well received by customers or users. The sponsor is less likely to be interested in the schedule as long as the overall timescales that were agreed are met.

A functional expert is likely to be focused on the quality of work, both of the work associated with the project and with the impact of the project requirements on any other work in progress. Thus the functional expert will be concerned to balance the quality of outcomes with the schedule and will want to have sufficient time to achieve high quality results.

A line manager is likely not to be directly involved in the project, but to be responsible for staff who are members of the project team. This manager's interest will probably be to ensure that the project schedule will not be too disruptive of other work. The staffing resource will usually need to be agreed with any line managers of people that you would like to include in the project team.

Suppliers and contractors are required to fit in with the schedule to provide whatever is contracted at the right time and place. Their concern is usually to ensure that the budget has allowed them to make a profit and that they are able to provide the required quality of goods or services within the schedule allowed. Thus suppliers and contractors have to balance these three dimensions but also to ensure that the agreement represents value for their business.

Customers and end users often want the outcome quickly and may apply pressure to speed up the schedule, but once the outcomes are delivered the focus from this perspective moves to the quality. If the project has been scheduled tightly to meet the expectations of customers it will still be essential to meet the quality requirements if the project is to be considered a success.

The project manager has to balance all three dimensions and to accommodate the different priorities put on each by different stakeholders at different times.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus