Understanding Stakeholder Needs – A Comprehensive Guide

Paul Naybour

Part of being a good project manager is understanding stakeholder needs and wants. However, project management is a constant learning process in itself. No matter how experienced you are, it is always worth remembering that it’s not always the formal processes that will make your project a success. This is especially relevant when it comes to stakeholders who are such an important part of every single project. So how do you really determine what stakeholders want?

1.   How Does The Project Benefit Them

No matter how nice a person is, deep down they will always want to know what the benefit of anything is to them when they invest their time, resources, or money. The benefits of a project for a stakeholder could be:

  • Making money –  When the outcome of a project is a successful product or service that fits the criteria set out in the project brief then it should help the company to generate revenue streams. Feedback from those who use the service or product may be used to improve what the company is offering and therefore also improve the revenue that it generates. It is also worth noting that when a project manager does their job well and comes in under the budget given by a stakeholder this can also provide cost savings for the stakeholder.
  • Being recognised in their field – Successful project completion can enhance the reputation of a stakeholder by showcasing the new product or service that their company is offering. A successful project outcome can also help to show their expertise in their chosen field.
  • A promotion or career boost – Being involved in a number of successful projects will undoubtedly boost the reputation of a person within their industry, showcasing their skills and has the potential to result in opportunities for career advancement.
  • A quicker turnaround: A good project can not only help to streamline the processes within an organisation but can also often result in the faster delivery of results.
  • Better processes: When the outcome of a project is successful this can help to improve efficiency and also quality within a stakeholders operations. It might be as a result of better processes being put in place or because they have discovered new software and project management tools that can help them to achieve this.

2. The Organisation Matters

As a project manager, you are used to recognising the bigger picture and creating that vision for your team, and you need to do the same for your stakeholder. Although you might think that the stakeholder understands the bigger picture, it is better not to assume and to explain it in a really quick and easy-to-understand way.

  • How does the project benefit the organisation? – offer the stakeholder some examples of the goals within the organisation that the project might support.
  • What problems will it solve? – it is important to identify any key pain points and challenges that might be addressed by the project and communicate these to the stakeholder.
  • What is the ultimate goal of the project? – all of the objectives of the project should be clearly outlined, and you need to show how they align with any of the organisations strategic processes in order to show their importance to the stakeholder. 

3. Trust

Stakeholders have to trust you, or you won’t gain the most from them. They need to be sure that you won’t be sharing sensitive information and that you are professional and ethical in your practices. Stakeholders want transparency.

Building Trust

It is essential to build trust with stakeholders and communication is one of the most important skills you have to help with this. You should make sure that you are transparent in your communications with your stakeholder, that you are reliable and when necessary responsive to any information that they give you.


When it comes to fostering trust with your stakeholder, open and honest communication is vital. Ensure that you find out your stakeholders preferred method of communication as not all stakeholders prefer to be kept abreast of progress or issues in the same way. 


During the course of any project manager there is a good chance that as a project manager you will be party to confidential information to help you complete the project, it is important to respect this confidentiality and handle any sensitive information that is shared with you with the utmost care.

Definitive Guide to
Stakeholders in Project Management

4. Trusting You Are Capable

Stakeholders will want to know you are capable of delivering. They want to know they are in the best hands, that you have the relevant skills needed to complete the project successfully. They want to know you have planning skills, the ability to manage the budget, manage risk, communicate well and deal with any risks or problems that arise. If you aren’t capable in all the areas necessary, it is important the stakeholder knows they can trust you to source the additional resources you need. If you think your stakeholder has concerns about your capability – address this with them. Explain how you can fill the gaps when it comes to capabilities you don’t have.

Demonstrating Capability

You can do this by offering the stakeholder examples of any past accomplishments and experiences where you have  shown your capabilities as a project manager. If you have worked on similar projects then this will be particularly good when it comes to demonstrating your capabilities, remember even those projects that didn’t have a successful outcome can be useful as you can demonstrate what you learn from any mistakes so that they do not happen again.


It is important to highlight those key skills and competencies that are necessary for effective project management, these include leadership, communication, stakeholder management and problem-solving.

Resource Management

When it comes to managing resources effectively it is essential to have the right tools at your disposal. This means the right project management software and strategies, and these may not always be the same from one project to another. Whether you are looking to manage the project budget, schedule of even the members of your team then the right tools can make all the difference.

5. Commitment

Everyone involved in a project wants to fully believe the project manager is wholly committed to the cause. Stakeholders do not have the time or energy to be working with new PM’s throughout the project, they want one capable person who is committed to the project until closure.

Demonstrating Commitment

Every project begins with a project plan and a good project plan will allow you to prioritise the steps required for project success. Delegating those tasks that other team members are capable of undertaking and concentrating on the remaining ones will help to demonstrate the commitment that you have to its success. 


The last thing that your stakeholder wants is a project manager who isn’t fully committed to the project. It is important to assure them that you are available for the duration of the project and that for the lifecycle of the project you are accessible.


When it comes to project leadership continuity is vital, as a project manager it is important that when you commit to undertaking a project you remain to see it through to completion. If you feel that you may not be able to commit to the duration of a project, then it is better to say so before the project begins rather than part way through the project when it will be necessary to find a new project manager who may work in a different way. This can be incredibly disruptive to a project and may have a detrimental affect on both the project team and the project outcome.

6. Still Unsure What Stakeholders Want?

Consider seeking advice from a mentor or more experienced project manager in the same industry. Stakeholders are such an important part of every project; you cannot afford not to have an open, trusting relationship with them and to understand their needs and wants.

Mentorship and Guidance

When it comes to understanding the needs of a stakeholder there is always more to learn and even the most qualified of project managers can benefit from seeking the mentorship or guidance of a project manager with more experience. Mentorships are not just for those who are new to project management, it can be beneficial for all.

Continuous Learning

As a project manager there is always something new to learn, and skills will always benefit from being honed. Ongoing learning and professional development in regards to your stakeholder management skills are equally important and should not be missed.


Whilst continued professional development will help you keep up to date with new methodologies, new ideas and new concepts within your industry there are other forms of collaboration that will also help you in your projects. The value of collaboration and networking with both peers and industry experts should never be underestimated. This is a very important way in which you can gain perspectives and insights into effective stakeholder management.

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