Who are External Stakeholders?

Who are External Stakeholders and why are they important? Often wielding the most influence on project success they can cause chaos if not identified and managed early. This guide includes a FREE External Stakeholder Map to download.
External Stakeholders are individuals or groups outside a business or project, but who can affect or be affected by the business or project. Arguably external stakeholders wield the most influence on the long term success of a business or project, because they will often be the end users and customers. stakeholdermap.com
Stakeholders are any groups or individuals who can affect or are affected by an organization, strategy or project. They can be internal or external and they can be at senior or junior levels.

Who are external stakeholders?

external stakeholders
Download this External Stakeholder Map
The image above shows typical External Stakeholders suggested by Tres Roeder in Managing Project Stakeholders: Building a Foundation to Achieve Project Goals

So we can see that Internal Stakeholders are groups or individuals within an organization or project, whereas external stakeholders are the customers, distributors, governments, suppliers, communities, laws and regulations. (Karim, et al., 2007, pp.8).

MindMap of External Stakeholders

This is a free mindmap you can use as a starting point for identifying your External Stakeholders.

Other definitions of External Stakeholders

There are many slight variations on the definition of External Stakeholders but they all agree that they are outside of a business or project

Boundless define External Stakeholders as:
[...] individuals, groups, and entities from outside that are affected by the consequences and outcomes of an organization's decisions. Boundless Management. Boundless, 21 Jul. 2015
Business case studies, give an even clearer definition in their case study on Reed Elsevier
External stakeholders are those individuals or groups outside a business. Business Case Studies

Why are External Stakeholders important?

All stakeholders can impact your organization or project. Internal stakeholders may appear more important because of their proximity to a project or initiative. Internal stakeholders may well be 'close' and may well also be more immediately influential, but their influence may be only be key in the short term.

Arguably external stakeholders wield the most influence on the long term success of a business or project, because external stakeholders will often be the end users/customers.
That said, during a project external stakeholders should still be identified and managed. The Gower Handbook of Project Management explains succinctly why external stakeholders always need to be considered.
these distractions [external stakeholders] can have a major influence on whether the project will be a success. For example, the cost of dealing with pressure groups protesting against a new bypass can add up to 15% to the cost of the project. R. Turner, 2014, pp 758
While external stakeholders may feel like a distraction or distant from the task at hand it would be a mistake to exclude them from your stakeholder analysis. You may find this generic list of stakeholders useful for identifying your external stakeholders.

Download a template for mapping external stakeholders

PowerPoint download - External Stakeholder Mapping template

PDF download - External Stakeholder Mapping template

MindMap download - External Stakeholders

References - External Stakeholders

Business Case studies, 2015.Corporate responsibility and stakeholders. [online] Available at: https://businesscasestudies.co.uk/reed-elsevier/corporate-responsibility-and-stakeholders/external-stakeholders.html

Saipol Bari Abd Karim, Hamzah Abdul Rahman, Mohamed Ali Berawi, Aini Jaapar, 2007. A review of the issues and strategies of Stakeholder Management in the Construction Industry, Management in Construction and Researchers Association (MICRA) Meetings and Conference, 28-29 Aug. 2007, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia. [online] Available at: https://www.academia.edu/172847/Issues_and_Strategies_in_Stakeholder_Management

Rodney Turner, 2014. Gower Handbook of Project Management. 5th Revised edition edition. Gower.

Useful Stakeholder Management resources

Stakeholder analysis templates in Word, Visio and Excel.

Stakeholder Management ebook

Happy Stakeholders - Pleasure and Displeasure List

Stakeholders - who are the Key Players? - Some Stakeholders are really important. How do you find them and get them on your side before they can do any damage?

Stakeholder Lists

Project stakeholders - typical stakeholders on a project

Stakeholder mind map - a mind map showing Stakeholders for an IT project.

Stakeholder Salience - an overview of the stakeholder salience model.