A stakeholder analysis is a process that is used to determine the impact of a specific action on various groups or individuals should that action be taken. The idea is to determine if the benefits generated from taking that action are sufficient to offset any possible issues or conflicts that may arise. This basic concept can be applied in a number of situations involving a wide range of groups or interests, making it ideal as tool for us in the general process of doing business as well as effectively managing the process of conflict resolution.
In evaluating the possible consequences of pursuing a specific action, attention is paid to who will be affected in some manner by that activity. Any person or entity that is likely to be impacted by the action is known as a stakeholder, signifying that those individuals or groups do have some type of interest or stake in the outcome of the situation under consideration. By using a stakeholder analysis to look closely at what is likely to happen to each of these stakeholders if the action is pursued, it is possible to identify both the positive and the negative consequences and make an informed decision as to whether the action is worth the time, effort, and resources necessary to move forward.
It is not unusual for the process of a stakeholder analysis to group and prioritize stakeholders as part of the overall evaluation process. Those who are directly impacted by the decision are sometimes referred to as primary stakeholders, while those who are likely to experience some sort of indirect effect from the action are known as secondary stakeholders. A third group that is often given priority in the analysis is called key stakeholders. Individuals and groups in this third category may also be associated with the other two classes, but are often given priority since they generally are extremely important to the company or organization that is attempting to determine if the action is feasible.
When used to best effect, the process of stakeholder analysis identifies both the benefits and the possible negative consequences for all concerned. Doing so can aid in developing strategies that can minimize any inconvenience or loss experienced by stakeholders while still allowing the benefits to occur. A stakeholder analysis can also be helpful in educating all concerned parties regarding the options on the table and what to expect if one or more of those options are put into action. This can often help to minimize conflict among concerned parties and make for an easier implementation that ultimately provides at least some benefits for everyone involved.