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The project sponsors have the responsibility of ensuring that the correct information is passing from the project organization to the customer or user, and vice-versa. Typically, the sponsor will handle the discussion of costs and deliverables, while the project manager communicates the schedule and performance of the project.
C-Level: It all begins at the top. Any successful project requires solid sponsorship and support from the executive management team. This sponsor has the responsibility of ensuring that the project objectives align with the over-reaching goals of the larger organization.
Finance: Very rarely is a project completed without some influx of money. However, finance is often the forgotten piece when project stakeholders are considered. Be sure to involve financial representation early, as often there are budgetary approvals to be obtained.
Information Technology: Nothing will bring a project to its knees quicker than not having the correct tools available. The Information Technology (IT) department should carry representation as a typical system stakeholder on the team and have an enabling hand in moving the project forward.
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As mentioned above, project management personnel are typically the stakeholders with the most responsibility for completing an initiative on time and under budget. These individuals monitor progress and communicate issues, while guiding project resources through the project life cycle toward a goal.
PM: As they say, the buck stops here. No individual has more at stake with the success or failure of a project than the project manager (PM). This person manages the needs and responsibilities of all other stakeholders while striving to complete the objectives of the project. The project manager is given authority and responsibility to manage project resources by the project charter, which is typically issued and signed by the top-level project sponsors (or what may be known as the Steering Committee).
APM: Often, if the project is of a size to require it, an assistant project manager (APM) will be used. This individual is the right hand of the project manager and is best used as a substitute for the PM in those cases where he/she cannot be in two places at once. While the PM carries ultimate responsibility for project success and is the face of the project, an APM is usually a talented functional manager that will ensure that project resources stay on task for deliverable completion.
Vendor PM: Many projects elicit the assistance of a specialized expert who has previously completed similar initiatives. For instance, software implementations will typically require a vendor-side subject matter expert to advise the PM and the project team during various stages of completion.
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The term stakeholder is often misconstrued to mean the customers of the project. While I have listed several role players that affect the project objectives, you should never lose sight of the customers and the ability they have to change the project's direction.
Users: From this group, you will collect your functional requirements, therefore they heavily influence the stated project objectives. The typical system stakeholders that I would classify as users can be system users, internal customers, external customers, managers, or executives. Essentially, anyone who may rely on the project deliverables becomes a user.
Downstream Systems and Processes: As with user stakeholders, this area should be considered in its broadest sense. Any software, hardware, or process that could be affected by the changes caused by your project becomes a stakeholder in its success. Think about it: if you rely on a system or process to give you information to perform your job, then you are by default a customer of that application and are dependent upon its success.
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