People often confuse the terms "stakeholder" and "shareholder." While a shareholder is a stakeholder, the two terms are entirely different. Stakeholder buy-in involves respect, mutually beneficial relationships and teamwork. If you are a designer, developer or project manager, you must first gain stakeholder buy-in or your project will likely fail.


A stakeholder is an entity that is affected--either directly or indirectly--by the actions of an organization. In her article "Stakeholder Analysis," organizational consultant Rachel Thomas of "Mind Tools" identifies and prioritizes an organization's stakeholders. She includes entities ranging from management, employees and shareholders to government, employees' family members, customers and the community. She says you can prioritize your stakeholders by determining their level of power and interest. High-powered people with high interest in the company, such as board members, are the people you must focus on the most. You must also place focus on high-powered, less interested people, such as lenders, but not as much as you would focus on those with both high power and high interest. You should place a similar level of focus on those who have less power but high interest, such as shareholders, employees and family. Stakeholders who have little interest and little power, such as the interest groups and the community, are the ones you can focus on the least.

Stakeholder Buy-in

When you think of a buy-in, you often think of a financial transaction. In fact, some buy-ins are financial transactions. For instance, when a partnership forms from a sole proprietorship, the new partner pays money to buy into the business. A stakeholder buy-in is generally non-financial. This type of buy-in involves the acceptance of a concept or idea, such as a project or a design. The stakeholders who buy in agree to commit to the proposer's plan of action.

Why Stakeholder Buy-in Matters

If you are a developer or a designer attempting to implement an idea or a project, you need the support of the influential stakeholders. Not only do you need the assistance of your fellow employees to work on the project, you need support from those surrounding you. If you encounter resistance from board members, employees, management, family or shareholders, your project is unlikely to be successful because you will be under pressure. You will feel as if you are working against those around you, attempting to prove them wrong. Collaborated efforts are always better than rebellious efforts.

Tips for Gaining Stakeholder Buy-in

Strategist Catriona Cornett discusses tips for gaining stakeholder buy-in in her 2010 article "15 Tips to Help Designers Gain Stakeholder Buy-In." She says you should involve employees, management and other internal stakeholders as early on as possible. You should also set realistic expectations and listen to others' ideas. Identify with the needs of your stakeholders and inform them of how your design or project will help the greater good. You must also use layman's terms and back up what you say with factual information. Identify your key stakeholders but ensure you keep as many stakeholders as possible in the loop. If there is a hurdle in coming to an agreement regarding the implementation, be ready to compromise.