Everything You Need to Know About Stakeholder Engagement & Management in 2020 (Step-By-Step Guide)

This guide provides you with a step-by-step overview and everything you need to know for engaging and managing stakeholder groups, including key, primary, secondary, internal, external and critical stakeholders in 2020.

Stakeholder engagement is a vital component of the project and organizational change management as it increases the success of your projects, programs, and your firm’s business changes.

Illustration: Sample Stakeholder Engagement Template

stakeholder analysis matrix, plan, strategy & engagement

  Illustration: Stakeholder Management Template – Sample

First, What is Stakeholder Management? (Definition)

Stakeholder management is the set of tasks that you perform to identify and manage stakeholder groups, including the primary and secondary stakeholders that have a stake in a project or business transformation. There are different types of project stakeholders that need to be managed, but key stakeholders are what people generally refer to when they say “stakeholder management.”

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What is Stakeholder Engagement?

Stakeholder engagement is part of the stakeholder management process. A stakeholder engagement strategy involves the set of tasks and activities that you need to conduct to communicate with and engage with primary and secondary stakeholders.

As the project progress, it is essential to keep key stakeholders engaged and updated on the progress of the implementation, as well as coach them to support change management and project implementation activities.

Don’t Miss: Template for Managing Your Stakeholder Groups

stakeholder management and mapping

Do You Really Need a Stakeholder Engagement & Management Plan?

A stakeholder management plan is a structured document that outlines the strategy, stakeholder mapping, and project activities that will be implemented to engage stakeholders, including leaders and managers that are impacted by a project or a business change. 

But, do you really need to take the time to develop a stakeholder engagement plan? Why is stakeholder engagement important? Are there stakeholder engagement templates that you can use to maximize your stakeholder management planning and activities?

Keep on scrolling below to find out below.

Don’t Miss: Stakeholder Engagement Tool & TemplatesStakeholder Engagement & Management Software Tool-min

Stakeholder Management Templates & Tool

Importance of Stakeholder Management

Before going further, let us address the question “why is stakeholder engagement important?” This is a question that is asked often by a lot of project managers and change management practitioners.

Stakeholder management is very important because stakeholders are in a position to increase, block, or decrease the success of the project. If stakeholder groups are resistant to the change, this will have a negative impact on the implementation of the project. If, on the other hand, they are very supportive of the change, then the probability of project success is greatly increased.

As such, it is very important to engage and manage all stakeholders to ensure that they provide continual buy-in and support of the change throughout the course of the implementation.

Something else you should note before we provide an overview of how to create your stakeholder management plan is that primary, key and critical stakeholders are needed to play key change management roles to help increase end-user adoption of the change.

For example, we might need our primary stakeholders to cascade or waterfall down communications to their respective groups and direct reports. In addition, when we need to train impacted end-users, we often will need the help of our key leadership stakeholders (also referred to as primary stakeholders) to remind their employees to attend the training sessions.

These are just a few examples of the importance of stakeholder management.  

And this brings us to the importance of having a stakeholder management plan and strategy, as well as how to develop your own stakeholder engagement strategy.

Developing an Effective Stakeholder Management Plan (4 Key Steps)

To develop an effective stakeholder management plan, there are four key steps you need to take. The first step is to identify the universe of potential stakeholder groups. This step is often referred to as stakeholder identification.

The second step is to assess each stakeholder and stakeholder group, and their willingness to support or resist the change.

The third step is to engage these stakeholders and prepare them for the change.

And the final step is continual engagement and management of these stakeholders throughout the strategic (planning) and tactical (execution) phases of the project.

4 Key Steps for Engaging & Managing Project Stakeholders

Click any of the links below, or keep on scrolling down this page, for an overview of each of these four critical steps for your stakeholder management approach.

As mentioned above, having a defined and planned out stakeholder management plan will help increase your engagement and management of the various types of stakeholder groups including primary stakeholders and key stakeholders, as well as internal and external stakeholders. All of these groups are generally referred to as project stakeholders. 

Stakeholder Engagement Plan Sample

 Stakeholder Management Process: 4 Steps

Step 1: Stakeholder Identification & Mapping

The first step in the stakeholder management process is to identify all potential leaders, senior managers, and executives that have or might have a stake in the project. This list of individuals is generally referred to as the “Universe of Project Stakeholder Groups.”

To obtain your list, you can work with members of the program team, including project managers, program leads, subject matter experts (SMEs), primary sponsors of the project, and other key project resources.

When meeting with these people, inform them that you are conducting a stakeholder identification assessment, and are looking to identify managers and stakeholder groups who will be impacted by the project.

You should also mention to them that you are looking to also identify senior managers and executives of impacted organizations who are considered critical internal stakeholders.

As you conduct your stakeholder identification and information gathering, you should document your findings in a stakeholder management matrix template.

stakeholder analysis matrix, plan, strategy & engagement

You can create this stakeholder analysis matrix from scratch using Excel, Smartsheet, Google doc or any type of spreadsheet. In addition, you can review our stakeholder management templates that include a ready-to-use stakeholder identification and mapping template.

As part of your stakeholder identification process, you should also conduct a change impact assessment which involves reviewing the current state process flows and the future state process flows to identify what is changing and who will be impacted.

From your change impact analysis, you should be able to identify a broader list of stakeholder groups, including primary, secondary and critical stakeholders that need to be engaged and managed.

Step 2. Stakeholder Assessment

The next step in your stakeholder engagement strategy, after gathering your list of stakeholders and stakeholder groups, will be to conduct an assessment of each stakeholder’s desired commitment levels and influence of the program. And, then document this information in the stakeholder matrix and mapping tool that you created from scratch by yourself, or obtained from AGS.

Sample Stakeholder Management Plan Template & Tool

The stakeholder mapping template will be used to capture basic stakeholder information (part of step 1), and then for step 2 will be used to document the level of each stakeholder’s receptiveness or resistance to the project, as well as the change management approach for mitigating any identified resistance.

You should also gather information on who will be responsible for executing the engagement and management approach for each identified stakeholder.

If you are creating your stakeholder management matrix template from scratch, make sure to include columns for capturing each individual’s current level of commitment, desired level of commitment and other important information including: role, title, reporting structure, level of influence, and ability to impact the project’s success.

Make sure to develop reporting stats on your stakeholder identification and analysis. For example, how many stakeholders have a high ability to impact the project? How many are considered Critical Stakeholders? How many have a high level of change management expertise? Etc.

Stakeholder & Sponsors' Assessment Sample OCM

Click here for more information on different types of reporting metrics that you can develop: Stakeholder Management Plan (Template & Tool).

In addition, make sure to assess each stakeholder’s organizational change management competency. This needs to be performed in order to find out which stakeholders need training, coaching or additional support to be good sponsors of the change.

Stakeholder Chart - Support or Resistant

Another important criteria to assess is identifying which manager is receptive or resistant to the change. This knowledge will enable you to develop more efficient stakeholder engagement and a resistant management plan.

Step 3: Engage and Prepare Stakeholders

The next step in the stakeholder management process is stakeholder engagement.

During the stakeholder engagement stage, you should conduct 1-on-1 meetings or group meetings with stakeholders to provide awareness, program status updates, and also to address any questions or concerns they might have (they often have lots of concerns).

For primary, critical, or secondary stakeholders that you identified as needing coaching and change management support, you should prepare and provide them with the necessary level of coaching and education to support them in their role as change agents for the program.

Your coaching plan should define how you will support managers and supervisors during the change. Read more: Organizational Change Management Coaching Plan.

A key focus of your stakeholder engagement approach will be to fully enable these primary and secondary stakeholders to:

  1. Sponsor the change
  2. Advocate for the change
  3. Support their employees during the change
  4. Communicate the change
  5. Support their employees in the new, changed environment
  6. Reduce resistance to the change  
  7. Overcome barriers and obstacles

(Step 4) Engage and Manage Your Stakeholder Groups

The final step in the stakeholder engagement process will occur throughout the project life cycle. Until the project is completed, you will need to continually engage with stakeholders to provide regular status updates and to ensure that they continue to support the project.

Something to keep in mind is that your stakeholder management strategic plan should not be set in stone. It needs to be a living document that will be updated on a regular basis.

As the project progresses, individuals will switch roles and so might need to be removed from your list of stakeholders, and new individuals will need to be added.

You will need to revisit and refine your stakeholder relationship management periodically as the project progresses and as more information is discovered.


Leverage the information outlined in this stakeholder management guide to develop your own stakeholder engagement strategy. And, in addition, you can click below to review a top Stakeholder Engagement & Management Tool from Airiodion Global Services (AGS) which provides structured templates for assessing and engaging with stakeholder groups

Stakeholder Engagement & Management Software Tool-min

  Stakeholder Management Tool

Types of Stakeholders (Definition)

For project management and organizational change management purposes, there are different types of stakeholders that need to be identified, engaged and managed for a project to be successful. These include primary stakeholders, internal and external stakeholders, critical managers, key stakeholders, and other stakeholder groups defined below.

Primary Stakeholder (Definition)

Primary stakeholders are managers, senior managers, executives, heads of departments, or business leaders that have a “stake” in the game because their department or organization will be impacted in some way by the change. Primary stakeholders are also referred to as key stakeholders because of their ability to hinder or promote the project.

Primary stakeholders represent businesses that will be impacted by a project, which is why they are also referred to as key stakeholders.

Project Sponsor (Definition)

Project sponsors are managers or leaders that are tasked with approving and being responsible for the overall success of the completion of a project. These individuals are generally the ones that approve the budget for the project and sign off on the project getting kicked off. This role involves approving the allocation of resources, approving project goals & objectives, and approving the implementation roadmap. A project sponsor is also referred to as an executive sponsor.

Critical Stakeholders (Definition)

A critical stakeholder is any internal stakeholder that is absolutely needed to be a sponsor or an advocate of the program in order for the program to succeed. Critical stakeholders are often powerful or highly influential managers within the organization who will be impacted by the program. They may or may not be sponsors at this point in time.

As part of your stakeholder management plan, you will need to identify these influential internal stakeholders and engage them to ensure that they are supportive of the change. 

Internal Stakeholders (Definition)

Internal stakeholders are groups and individuals that are part of the company’s organizational structure. They are employees, managers, and leaders that are employed by the company

External Stakeholders (Definition)

External stakeholders are groups and individuals that are NOT part of the company’s organizational structure. They include customers, clients, suppliers, vendors and other partners that will be impacted directly or indirectly by the project.

Stakeholders vs Project Sponsors

Before going further, let us quickly discuss stakeholders vs. sponsors, as these two related groups of individuals will make up your stakeholder target audience, and are often confused by program managers and project leads.

As mentioned above, stakeholders are managers, heads of departments, or business leaders that have a “stake” in the game because their department or organization will be impacted in some way by the change, while a project sponsor is a manager or leader that is willing to sponsor a change or someone who has been mandated by the organization’s leaders to sponsor a change.

A sponsor may also be a stakeholder. However, a stakeholder may or may not be a sponsor of the change (and may not be supportive of the change at this point in time).

Engaging Program Sponsors and Key Stakeholders-min

Different Levels of Sponsorship

There are different levels of program management sponsorship. A sponsor might just be responsible for approving and managing the budget for a project as well as overseeing the overall success of the initiative. This type of sponsor is often referred to as the primary sponsor.

Other sponsors might solely be responsible for helping to spread awareness about the change, and helping to overcome roadblocks within their group. Another type of stakeholder sponsor is a leader that is willing to support the change program by engaging other senior leaders to solicit buy-in for the change and helping to reduce resistance. These are commonly referred to as secondary stakeholders.

Sponsors generally wear different hats and manage different responsibilities.

Change and Program Management - Sponsors and Stakeholders


We hope this end-to-end stakeholder management guide has done a great job in answering the key questions you might have had before reading it, including what is stakeholder management? Who are stakeholders in a project? Why are stakeholders important? Why is stakeholder engagement important? What is the role of stakeholders in project management? etc.

As discussed above, a sponsorship and stakeholder engagement plan needs to be developed for your project. which will then be used to build commitment (sponsorship and support of the program) from key individuals across impacted groups or target audiences.

Developing your stakeholder engagement strategy and plan will help ensure consistency, a deliberate engagement with sponsors, primary, secondary, internal and external stakeholders.

In order to effectively support a project, these stakeholder groups often regular communication to keep them in the loop, as well as coaching on best change management practices to help them perform their roles as agents of the change. Such support will involve providing sponsors with prepared communication for them to cascade across the organization.

Types of Stakeholders Groups

Types of Stakeholders Groups

Click below to read about Airiodion Global ServicesStakeholder Engagement & Management Tool

The tool comes packed with dashboard analytics, an assessment template & matrix, samples, and a step-by-step guide.

Stakeholder Engagement & Management Software Tool-min

Stakeholder Mapping Templates and Tools

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Author: Ogbe Airiodion (Senior Change Management Leader and Founder of AGS).
Note: Content on Airiodion Global Services (AGS)'s website is copyrighted. If you have questions, comments, or tips about this Airiodion Global Services content, please contact Airiodion Global Services today.