Abstract Based on the stakeholder salience theory, in this article five inventory projects are described and analysed. Results of the case studies presented in this article show that in practice the reshaping of inventory systems often is not a linear, well-defined process but emerge during the course of the project. Most importantly, our case studies clearly indicate that the outcome of inventory projects is often heavily influenced by the interests of different stakeholders. Apparently, decisions made during the course of inventory projects are only partly based on rationality and strongly influenced by negotiation behaviour, power relationships and opportunistic behaviour of the stakeholders involved. It seems to be important to be aware of the different roles stakeholders can play during the course of inventory projects. The results presented in this article may therefore help project managers to guide projects in the area of inventory management more effectively.