Are Competitors, Project Stakeholders?

Answer I

That’s obvious! They are Negative Project Stakeholders.

Answer II

Many PMP books and forum explain it otherwise. They assert, according to PMBOK Guide, Competitors are not Project Stakeholders.

Project StakeholdersSo which is the correct answer?

Well! None of the answers is entirely correct. PMBOK Guide does not say anything about the Competitors as Project Stakeholders. Let me explain.

Since this is a Project Management blog, I am referring to “Project Stakeholders” and not about “Organizational Stakeholders”. However, Competitors are Organizational Competitors.

[infobox color=”#f6deb8″ textcolor=”#000000″ icon=”question-circle”]Who is a Project Stakeholder?

As per PMBOK Guide 5th Edition a Project Stakeholder is “An individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity or, an outcome of a project. [/infobox] [infobox color=”#f6deb8″ textcolor=”#000000″ icon=”question-circle”]Who is a Organizational Competitor?

Organizational Competitors are those Organizations or Agencies or Groups that work against PM’s Organization to gain more business for themselves. [/infobox]

In my opinion, generalizing competitors “as Project Stakeholders” or “not as Project Stakeholders” is extremely bad. Every project is unique so “Project Stakeholder identification & analysis” should also be unique.

Project Stakeholders could be Positive or Negative or Neutral i.e. their affect is construed as Positive or Negative or Neutral. The influence and impact of a Project Stakeholder may change during the course of the project.

Going by the definition of a Project Stakeholder, it would seem that Competitor is a Negative Project Stakeholder. However we are talking about Project Stakeholders i.e. we are talking about Projects that have already started and not about Projects which are under bidding.

A Competitor may or may not be a Stakeholder for a Project that has already started. It entirely depends upon the nature of the Project. Let me provide few examples.

[infobox color=”#d9eef0″ textcolor=”#000000″ icon=”info-circle”]An IT services organization won a Project from a Client. The Competitor was not involved in this particular bidding.

Once the Project starts the Competitor, in all likelihood, will not be a Project Stakeholder. After Project starts, Competitor, in all likelihood, will neither be affected nor be interested in the Project. [/infobox] [infobox color=”#d9eef0″ textcolor=”#000000″ icon=”info-circle”]A large Infrastructure Company won a Highway Project from Government against a Competitor.

The Competitor may become Negative Project Stakeholder in the project because it wants be successful in future bids. The Competitor may influence Government to delay decisions or create supply constraints through Vendors or try to tarnish Company reputation by negative publicity. The Competitor would feel that they will be able to increase their chances of success in future bids by doing such things. [/infobox] [infobox color=”#d9eef0″ textcolor=”#000000″ icon=”info-circle”]An A large Infrastructure Company won a Highway Project from Government against a Competitor. The same Competitor won the bid for developing part of a Power Plant which, in future, will be connected by the upcoming highway.

The Competitor, in all likelihood, will become a Positive Project Stakeholder. The upcoming highway will help Competitor in transporting construction material and equipment. The Competitor may start providing support and help complete the Highway Project as soon as possible. [/infobox]


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Praveen Malik, PMP

​Praveen Malik ​is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) with a rich 23+ years of experience. He is a leading Project Management Instructor, Coach and ​Advisor. He ​has successfully trained thousands of aspirants for the PM certification exams.

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Sandeep Shouche Reply

First question that needs to be asked is – WHOSE competitor? Yours (i.e. performing organization) or the customer’s competitor?

Regardless (In my opinion), competitors CAN be stakeholders, especially when you look at things from a large project or program perspective. Some other scenarios can be:

– You won a bid to REPLACE your competitor and the competitor has to transfer knowledge (or the other way around)
– Both you and competitor are working on different parts of the project or program (sort of like the highway/power plant example above) and are jostling for position
– Competitive considerations may impact requirements – in addition to strategy

Also, negative or positive depends upon perspective. For YOUR organization, the competitor may appear like a negative stakeholder, but from the overall project perspective – they may not always be negative.

    Praveen Malik, PMP Reply

    Thanks Sandeep. I agree with your opinion. I think our opinions match.

    “Whose Competitor?” I have mentioned them as PM’s organizations competitors (Performing Organization) in the article.

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