It’s every project manager’s worst nightmare: a stakeholder magically appears at the end of the project and makes your life miserable.

Here are a few examples:

  • The project stalls at production because the IT team won’t install software that doesn’t meet the security requirements on their servers.
  • The great new product is not being used because the end-users feel it is too complicated and don’t need it anyway.
  • At delivery, the client refuses the product because it doesn’t meet an industry standard they forgot to inform you about.

Is any of this familiar? In any project, you’ll have visible and hidden stakeholders.

Visible stakeholders are easy to manage: they are vocal and will make their opinions known on their own. Even if they oppose your project, they can be monitored and, in time, convinced that your project is good.

Hidden stakeholders, however, are very dangerous. They won’t speak up. Sometimes, they are forgotten by the project team. As Murphy will have it, this stakeholder will appear in your project at the worst moment.

So, how can we find these stakeholders?

Hidden stakeholders need to be found. Here are a few questions that will help you uncover them:

Who will use it?

End users can make or break your product. It doesn’t matter how excellent your new timesheet system is; if the end users don’t like it, it doesn’t stand a chance of lasting. Ensure they feel involved and have them try out your product early when the cost of changing something big is not so high.

Who will make it?

This is your project team or the production team in a manufacturing environment. They can give you invaluable tips to speed up production, increase quality, and approach problems from a different angle.

Who will implement it?

These are the people who can make the introduction of your product at the client site smooth and easy. It’s important to know these people’s requirements early on. They are concerned with standards, policies, security, and the like. If you don’t know these things from the start, your project is a disaster waiting to happen.

Who will maintain it?

To ensure they have the information required to do their job well, it’s essential to include the product maintenance team during the project.

Who stands to lose?

These are more political stakeholders but can still do much damage if they go unchecked. If the project succeeds, will it impact someone’s work significantly?

Who never speaks up?

People who will not speak in meetings then talk about a lot in informal settings. It’s important to seek them out and get their opinions in a setting where they are comfortable.

Practice makes perfect

Believe me, you only forget to ask your IT team whether they have Apache or Windows servers once 😉