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Identifying the Stakeholders

In any investigation, there are going to be a large number of people with a vested interest in the outcome. These people are the stakeholders. Stakeholders vary in each investigation, depending in part on the scope of the investigation and in part on the raw size of the organization and the data set involved. Sometimes it is easy for the investigator to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of people involved. In all cases, it is safe to assume that there are two primary stakeholders with a greater investment than any other. Those are the accused and the accuser.

The accuser is the easiest to identify. This is the person or the organization that initiated the inquiry to begin with. As simple as that may seem, all too often the actual accuser gets left in the wake of bureaucracy and procedure. This is particularly true in cases that are destined to be presented before a court. Lawyers suddenly take the place of the stakeholders, and the assumption becomes that suddenly they are the primary stakeholders. A good investigator never lets this happen. Communications may be with these attorneys as representatives of the stakeholders, but the primary stakeholders remain the accused and the accuser.

Depending on the magnitude and the scope of the case, there might be a wide variety of secondary stakeholders—or none at all. To be a stakeholder of any kind, an individual or organization must have something to gain or lose from the outcome of the investigation. In spite of possible arguments to the contrary, this does not include the news media. Key stakeholders include

  • Decision makers: Those who have the authority to initiate or to cancel an investigation or to reassign personnel.
  • Mediators: Judges or third-party arbitrators who are responsible for deciding the outcome of the case or issue decisions pertaining to procedure.
  • Customers: People or organizations downstream from the accused or accuser who will be directly impacted by the decision. For example, in i4i Limited Partnership v. Microsoft Corporation, virtually every reseller of Microsoft Word was impacted (i4i v. Microsoft Corporation, 6:07VC113, 2009).
  • Process owners: People or organizations whose actions may have contributed to the case or whose operations were or will be impacted by the case.

Extraordinary circumstances can lead to unexpected stakeholders. The Exxon-Valdez incident in 1989 started out as the accidental grounding of an oil tanker that resulted in Exxon’s launch of an investigation into the actions of the ship’s captain. Before it was over, there were more than 38,000 litigants, including individuals, agencies, and environmental organizations, and three different sets of judges involved in a variety of decisions (Lebedoff 1997). That’s a lot of stakeholders.

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