A project is successful when it achieves its objectives and meets or exceeds the expectations of the stakeholders.

But who are the stakeholders? Stakeholders are individuals who either care about or have a vested interest in your project. They are the people who are actively involved with the work of the project or have something to either gain or lose as a result of the project.

Project managers have to deal with people external to the organization as well as the internal environment, certainly more complex than what a manager in an internal environment faces. For example, suppliers who are late in delivering crucial parts may blow the project schedule. To compound the problem, project managers generally have little or no direct control over any of these individuals.

Let's take a look at these stakeholders and their relationships to the project manager.

4.1 Top Management

Top management may include the president of the company, vice presidents, directors, division managers, the corporate operating committee, and others. These people direct the strategy and development of the organization.

On the plus side, with top management support it will be easier to recruit the best staff to carry out projects, and to acquire needed material and resources.  Visibility can also enhance a PM's professional standing in the company.

However, failure can be quite dramatic and visible to all, and if the project is large and expensive (most are), the cost of failure will be more substantial than for a smaller less visible project.

Some suggestions in dealing with top management are:

  • Develop in-depth plans and major milestones that must be approved by top management during the planning and design phases of the project.
  • Ask top management associated with your project for their information reporting needs and frequency.
  • Develop a status reporting methodology to be distributed on a scheduled basis.
  • Keep them informed of project risks and potential impacts at all times.

4.2 The Project Team

The project team is those people dedicated to the project or borrowed on a part-time basis. As project manager you need to provide leadership, direction, and above all, the support to team members as they go about accomplishing their tasks. Working closely with the team to solve problems can help you learn from the team and build rapport. Showing your support for the project team and for each member will help you get their support and cooperation.

Some difficulties in dealing with project team members include.

  • In the case where project team members are ‘borrowed’ and they don't report to you, their priorities may be elsewhere.
  • They may be juggling many projects as well as their full time job, and hence have difficulty meeting any deadline.
  • Personality conflicts may arise. These may be caused by differences in social style or values or they may be the result of some bad experience when people worked together in the past.
  • You may find out about any deadlines missed when it is too late to recover.

Managing project team members requires interpersonal skills. Here are some suggestions that can help.

  • Involve team members in project planning.
  • Arrange to meet privately and informally with each team member at several points in the project, perhaps for lunch or coffee.
  • Be available to hear team members‘ concerns at any time.
  • Encourage team members to pitch in and help others when needed.
  • Complete a project performance review for team members.

4.3 The Manager

Typically the boss decides what our assignment is and who can work with us on our projects. Keeping your manager informed will help ensure that you get the necessary resources to complete your project.

  • If things go wrong on a project, it is nice to have an understanding and supportive boss to go to bat for you if necessary. By supporting your manager, you will find your manager will support you more often.
  • Find out exactly how your performance will be measured.
  • When unclear about directions, ask for clarification.
  • Develop a reporting schedule that is acceptable to your boss.
  • Communicate frequently.

4.4 Peers

Peers are people on the project team or not, who are at the same level in the organization as you. These people will, in fact, also have a vested interest in the product. However, they will have neither the leadership responsibilities nor the accountability for the success or failure of the project that you have.

Peer support is essential. Because most of us serve our self-interest first, use some investigating, selling, influencing and politicking skills here. To ensure you have cooperation and support from your peers.

Get the support of your project sponsor or top management to empower you as the project manager with as much authority as possible. It's important that the sponsor makes it clear to the other team members that their cooperation on project activities is expected.

4.5 Resource Managers

When project managers are in the position of having to borrow resources, other managers control their resources. Hence, their relationships with other people are particularly important. If their relationship is good, they may be able to consistently acquire the best staff and the best equipment for their projects. If relations aren't so good, they may find themselves not able to get good people or equipment needed on the project.

4.6 Internal Customers

Internal customers are individuals within the organization who have projects that meet the needs of internal demands.

4.7 External customer

External customers are the customers for projects that are to be marketed outside of the organization.

The customer holds the power to accept or reject your work. Early in the relationship, the project manager will need to negotiate, clarify, and document project specifications and deliverables. After the project begins, the project manager must stay tuned in to the customer's concerns and issues and keep the customer informed.

4.8 Government

Project managers working in certain heavily regulated environment may have to deal with government regulators and departments. These can include all or some levels from city, through county, state, and federal, to international.

4.9 Contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers

There are times when organizations don't have the expertise in-house or available resources, and work is farmed out to contractors or subcontractors. Managing contractors or suppliers requires many of the skills needed to manage full-time project team members.

Any number of problems can arise with contractors or subcontractors:

  • quality of the work;
  • cost overruns;
  • schedule slippage.

Many projects depend on goods provided by outside suppliers. If the supplied goods are delivered late or in short supply or of poor quality or if the price is greater than originally quoted, the project may suffer.