VSJ – May 2003 – Work in Progress

Jean Davison is researching a technique for identifying and analysing stakeholders in process improvement projects for her PhD at the University of Sunderland. She has presented the work at international conferences in York and Orlando. David Deeks FIAP, who has written in these pages before, is supervising the work. Here, they introduce us to these ideas.

It is becoming increasingly recognised that there is a strong need for stakeholders to be involved in organisational and systems change. Renewed interest in participatory methods for system redesign (e.g. Adman and Warren 2000) sees the stakeholder involved in both consultation and development. Equally importantly, a successfully managed project needs to have regard for deeply entrenched cultures and resistance to change. Work has been carried out at the University of Sunderland to develop a technique to aid in the identification and analysis of stakeholders and highlight factors relating to the effects of system change upon them.

Development of the SIA (stakeholder identification and analysis) technique commenced with a view to enhancing stakeholder aspects of PISO® (Process Improvement for Strategic Objectives). This is a method for improving business processes by allowing users of a system to reengineer their own work-based problem areas. It aims to take into consideration the stakeholders in that system – those involved in its operation, those affected by it and those who have an effect on it. The method has been covered in earlier editions of Visual Systems Journal (Deeks 2000a, 2000b, 2001) and is fully described in Lejk and Deeks 2002. Last year a report outlining a successful PISO implementation within Pinderfields and Pontefract Hospitals was given at the 7th International Conference of the UK Systems Society in York (Davison et al 2002a). The success of this project was particularly attributed to PISO’s encouragement of uniting system stakeholders with the use of data flow diagrams as a basis of discussion and development. This aspect has been typical of numerous other projects. Some found certain stakeholders to be overlooked, however, and it was found that there was no prescriptive means for identifying and analysing them.

The original SIA technique was developed as a synthesis of ideas from stakeholder literature and the outline of this development was presented at the SCI Conference last July (Davison et al 2002b). Having successfully piloted the technique with groups of MSc students at the University, it was further developed to consider the likely changes within a system and how these affect stakeholders and to help establish aspects requiring stakeholder negotiation with a view to obtaining consensus. The technique uses the matrix of Figure 1. A key aspect of its design is that, in keeping with the ethos of PISO, it is aimed at system users – assisting them in the redesign of their own system. So as well as being useful in its own right, it integrates well with the PISO framework, as shown in Figure 2.

Identification of stakeholders is carried out during ‘information gathering’ (PISO step 2.1). Three stakeholder categories are applied, subdivided into four stakeholder groups. The Direct category consists of system engagers; those directly affected by a project and who have the most impact on and interest in a project. These carry out a process, are served by a process or serve a process. The Indirect stakeholder category is subdivided into two groups; outside agencies and decision-makers. Outside agencies tend to be external to the organisation and, though not immediately apparent within an area of change, could indirectly affect a project. Decision-makers are likely to be managers within an organisation who ultimately enable any changes to a system to be implemented. The Interface category forms a link between the direct and indirect stakeholders and consists of facilitators who are responsible for aiding the system development.

The first purpose of stakeholder analysis is to ascertain their likely impact upon the system being reengineered (PISO steps 1.2 to 1.4). This is carried out by applying a combination of three attributes – power, legitimacy and urgency (based on the work of Mitchell, Agle and Wood, 1997) – to glean the level of influence various stakeholders have within a system. The validity of these attributes was shown in a later study by Agle and Mitchell (1999), by using data supplied by CEOs of 80 large US firms, confirming that the attributes are relative to stakeholder salience. These attributes, when incorporated with strategic group analysis, have also been used to uncover stakeholder relationships during analysis of competitive aspects in industry (McLarney 2002) as well as providing a basis for stakeholder management strategies (Bunn et al 2002).

The second purpose is to assess the relevant priority and interests of stakeholder groups to distinguish those who must be included within immediate negotiation of change from those who may not require urgent attention (PISO steps 1.3 and 3.2). Projected system changes can then be considered as to their effect on relevant stakeholders. Attention given to change resistance factors at this point also assists the analyst in considering the effect of change on individuals to ensure smooth negotiation and to achieve consensus.

In view of the success of the SIA technique within the MSc projects it is being used in selected commercial PISO implementations. An experienced manager within Sunderland Housing Group, for instance, was pleased to report that he had not realised how reliant stakeholders were upon others until the technique highlighted this important aspect. Duplication of effort between stakeholders was also revealed and the time-scale of the project was reduced because the most salient stakeholders were consulted first, thus avoiding the co-ordination of multiple diaries. It is hoped to consider this case study in detail in a future issue.

The SIA technique is already proving to be a valuable standalone approach as well as a key enhancement to the PISO method.


Adman, P. and Warren, L. (2000). Participatory sociotechnical design of organizations and information systems – an adaptation of ETHICS methodology. Journal of Information Technology, 15(1), pp. 33-51.

Agle, B.R. and Mitchell, R.K. (1999). Who Matters To CEOS? An Investigation of Stakeholders Attributes and Salience, Corporate Performance, and CEO Values. Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 42 (5), pp. 507-526.

Bunn, M.D., Savage, G.T. and Holloway, B.B. (2002). Stakeholder analysis for multi-sector innovations. Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, 17(2/3), pp. 181-203.

Davison, J., Deeks, D.A., Dixon, A., Thompson, J.B. and Lejk, M. (2002a). A Report of the use of the PISO (Process Improvement for Strategic Objectives) Method in an NHS Trust Hospital. Special Conference Edition. 7th International Conference of the UK Systems Society, York, Systemist.

Davison, J., Deeks, D. and Thompson, J.B. (2002). Developing a Stakeholder Identification and Analysis Technique for use in Information System Redesign. 6th World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (SCI 2002), Orlando, FL, USA.

Deeks, D. (2000). Introducing Process Improvement for Strategic Objectives, Deeks, Visual Systems Journal, Sept 2000.

Deeks, D. (2001a). Work in Progress: Process Improvement for Strategic Objectives. Visual Systems Journal, Dec 00/Jan 01.

Deeks, D. (2001b). Process Improvement for Strategic Objectives work in progress, Visual Systems Journal, July/Aug2001.

Lejk, M. and Deeks, D. (2002). An Introduction to Systems Analysis Techniques. (2nd Ed). Harlow.

McLarney, C. (2002). Stepping into the light: stakeholder impact on competitive adaptation. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 15(3), pp. 255-272.

Mitchell, R.K., Agle, B.R. And Wood, D.J. (1997). Toward a Theory of Stakeholder Identification and Salience: Defining the Principle of Who and What Really Counts. Academy of Management Review, 22(4), pp. 853-886.

Jean and David can be contacted at jean.davison@sunderland.ac.uk and david.deeks@sunderland.ac.uk respectively.

[Interesting project or development? Let us know at eo@iap.org.uk!]

Comments are closed.