Project Management Guide
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What Is a Stakeholder in Project Management?

Stakeholders are those with an interest in your project's outcome. They are typically the members of a project team, project managers, executives, project sponsors, customers, and users. Stakeholders are people who will be affected by your project at any point in its life cycle, and their input can directly impact the outcome. It's essential to practice good stakeholder management and continuously communicate to collaborate on the project.

Stakeholders vs. key project stakeholders

Project stakeholders, in general, can be single individuals or entire organizations who are affected by the execution or outcome of a project. It doesn't matter whether the project affects them negatively or positively — if they're affected, they're a stakeholder. Key project stakeholders, however, are stakeholders who have the influence and authority to dictate whether a project is a success or not. These are the people and groups whose objectives must be satisfied, as they have the power to make or break the project. Even if all deliverables are in and budgets are met, if the stakeholders aren't happy, the project cannot be considered a success.

Typical key stakeholders in a project

Some of the typical key project stakeholders you'll find in a project include:

  • Customers: The direct user of a product or service, often both internal and external to the company executing the project
  • Project manager: The project's leader
  • Project team members: The group executing the project under the project manager's leadership
  • Project sponsor: The project's financier
  • Steering committee: An advisory group providing guidance on key decisions, which includes the sponsor, executives, and key stakeholders from the organization
  • Executives: The top management in the company executing the project; those who direct the organization's strategy
  • Resource managers: Other managers who control resources needed for executing the project

There are many more examples of project stakeholders, including: sellers/suppliers, contractors, owners, government agencies, media outlets, and even society at large.

Internal vs. external stakeholders in project management

It’s important to understand your project may have key stakeholders both inside and outside of your organization. That’s why it’s worth noting the key differences between internal and external stakeholders. 

Internal stakeholders in project management

Internal stakeholders are those within your organization. They can include top management, project team members, your own manager, your peers or co-workers, a resource manager, and internal customers.

External stakeholders in project management

External stakeholders are not part of your organization but might include external customers, government entities, contractors, and subcontractors, as well as suppliers. 

Identifying stakeholders for a project

Identifying internal and external stakeholders in project management will allow you to better execute your project planning by ensuring each and every stakeholder is informed throughout the project and satisfied with the end result. To ensure you include all relevant internal and external stakeholders, you’ll want to learn how to create a stakeholder management plan with our helpful guide.

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