Reimaging stakeholder analysis in project management: network theory and fuzzy logic applications

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Abstract

Purpose: The methods presently used for project stakeholder analysis have typically followed two distinct patterns: (1) a project-centric approach that places a project at the center, and subsequently, concentrates on dyadic relationships between the project and its stakeholders; (2) a network theory-based approach that emphasizes on the interconnections within the network of project stakeholders. The main contention of this study is built upon the premise that neither the sole analysis of dyadic relationships between a project and its stakeholders nor the stand-alone use of the network theory methods is adequate for reliable analysis of stakeholders. Design/methodology/approach: This article proposes a model that bases the salience of stakeholders on their relationships with the project as well as on their interdependencies in the project. In doing so, this work explores the potential of a Fuzzy Inference System (FIS) to provide a comprehensive picture of stakeholder analysis. Using a real-world biodiversity project, this paper analyses the project stakeholders based on their possession of various attributes as well as the extent to which each individual stakeholder influences the entire connected network of all stakeholders. Findings: A salient feature of the proposed FIS model is its ability to provide a high capacity for analyzing the results. The model is able to generate the input–output relationship surface view for stakeholder analysis. Further, unlike the traditional project stakeholder analysis methods that are linear, the proposed model is strongly nonlinear. This implies that change in the input variables of the fuzzy-based model is not expected to lead to a proportional change in the model output. Practical implications: Two practical implications can be drawn from the presented stakeholder analysis model. First, confronted with mounting pressure to understand the stakeholder environment and to effectively manage stakeholders, project managers need to establish a sound stakeholder management strategy. The stakeholder analysis model developed herein casts a wider net for the critical ranking of stakeholders in a project, thereby providing a more accurate prioritization of the stakeholders. Second, while stakeholders independently require managerial attention, understanding the effect of competing and cooperative stakeholder interactions are unarguably of great importance. The presented model prompts the project managers to recognize not only the influence of key stakeholders on the project but also the interactions of multiple stakeholders within the stakeholder network. Originality/value: The proposed stakeholder analysis model possesses several desirable features. First, it is not constrained to capturing only stakeholder attributes discussed in the example project provided in this study. The model is flexible and adaptable to all business and management contexts. Second, the stakeholder mapping in the model is not a function of a sole attribute but rather a cumulative effect of multiple stakeholder attributes. In fact, the power of the suggested model lies in its ability to incorporate the three aspects of stakeholder theory into a single model. Third, the presented model builds a quantitative and qualitative picture of the stakeholder salience. The suggested FIS model is capable of processing both qualitative perception of stakeholder attributes and quantitative analysis of the network of stakeholder interactions. This allows for a more comprehensive and synergistic utilization of model inputs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEngineering, Construction and Architectural Management
Early online date2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020

Keywords

  • Centrality analysis
  • Fuzzy inference system
  • Project stakeholder analysis
  • Stakeholder salience
  • Stakeholder theory

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