When Should You Treat Competitors As Project Stakeholders?

Do you thinks competitors are project stakeholders?

Some say that’s obvious! They are Negative Project Stakeholders.

They assert that, according to the PMBOK Guide, Competitors are not Project Stakeholders. Many PMP books state the same thing.

But is it really true?

Let me answer this question with some examples.

Organizational Competitors vs. Project Stakeholders

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

PMBOK Guide does not say anything about the Competitors as Project Stakeholders.

Who is a Project Stakeholder?

As per the PMBOK Guide 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.

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.

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.

Example I

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.

Example II

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.

Example III

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.

Over To You

What is your opinion? What type of projects do you do? Do you put competitors name in your stakeholder register?

Please leave a comment below.

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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