Understanding how to approach your stakeholders is critical to meeting key business goals, but when their position is a mystery it’s almost impossible to understand how you can effectively reach them and satisfy their needs. Having a strong understanding of what they want and how to communicate with them is necessary in order to meet their expectations, and can be easily done by practicing stakeholder mapping.
In this guide, we’ll define stakeholder mapping and walk through some of the biggest advantages of using a stakeholder map. If you’re interested in learning more about various collaboration templates you can check out some of our other walkthroughs on templates such as persona maps and customer journey maps here.
Stakeholder Mapping Definition
What is Stakeholder Mapping?
Stakeholder mapping is the analysis, prioritization, and diagramming of the various influential parties that are involved with your business. These interests can represent a wide array of stakeholders including business ownership all the way to everyday customers. The stakeholder analysis helps organize these factions and create a strategy for their engagement and communication as you proceed to grow your business.
The stakeholder map will clearly identify all of the key parties that have interests in your business and will effectively align them on an XY axis based on their relative interest and influence in your project. By doing this, you can effectively prioritize resource allocation, communication strategy, and product direction through the eyes of your stakeholders.
Stakeholder Mapping Use Guide
There are multiple different reasons to create a stakeholder map, and whether you’re simply hoping to better understand their positioning or you need to develop solutions based on their needs, this template is a great way to analyze the perspective of your stakeholders. If you’ve never used a stakeholder map before here’s a quick guide on how to create one.
Step 1: Select Stakeholders
The very first step in creating a stakeholder map is narrowing the scope of who will be included. This means you must select the different parties that you want to map onto the board. Choosing who to map and who to leave out is purely dependent on personal preference and the overall goals of the collaboration workshop. If possible, try to include as many ownership parties as possible and integrate large budget customers to understand the positioning of the most influential stakeholders.
When using online whiteboards it’s very easy to diagram these parties and most stakeholder maps will include a notes bank on the side of the map to signify where you can begin brainstorming.
After you brainstorm the stakeholders, you will begin to map them out on the template. There are four sections that we will talk about below, each section corresponding to a different quadrant of the stakeholder map.
Quadrant 1: Monitor
The “monitor” section is at the bottom left of the stakeholder map and corresponds with the lowest level of influence and interest. This portion is where you will gather stakeholders who sit on the outer rim of the project and whose opinions don’t hold much formative say in your decision-making.
The optimal engagement strategy for these stakeholders is to monitor them periodically and stay partially engaged with them. Because they hold some interest but aren’t super engaged it’s important to make sure that this interest is maintained over time. By monitoring their behavior and engagement you can better understand what specifically draws them towards your business and what they are looking for. Through this, you can then begin to push the things that you know peak their interest in an effort to increase their engagement.
Quadrant 2: Keep Informed
The “keep informed” section falls under high interest but low influence, meaning many of the people in this portion will be extremely interested/active users but don’t have the pull to influence the product very much. An example of a user like this could be a small business or a regular customer, people who use the product avidly but don’t have a big say on its direction.
With these stakeholders, it’s important to keep them informed and in the loop while maintaining their level of interest. While they might not have a formative say in the product, they feel more important when they’re filled in on the evolution of your business. These stakeholders will be informed about the direction of the product to maintain their level of interest as they will be the people that give the most frequent customer feedback. This feedback is crucial in comparison with the higher influence stakeholders and will often confirm the direction the stakeholders as a whole hope to move in.
Quadrant 3: Keep Satisfied
The “keep satisfied” section is where people would traditionally think to place most stakeholders, and this is where many influential parties will find themselves. This section falls onto the high influence low-interest portion of the diagram, meaning the parties in this lot are highly influential to the business as a whole but not entirely interested in the day-to-day use of the product. Stakeholders in this section are often parts of the ownership or funding groups.
When meeting the expectations of these stakeholders it’s critical that you are able to understand their goals for the business and incorporate them into your personal goals. By doing this you can create win-win scenarios with your stakeholders and keep them satisfied going forward.
This section of stakeholders can sometimes create conflict with other parties because, while they aren’t product champions, they have their own demands for the direction of the business. These demands may often clash with other people’s interests and will usually require a compromise to find a solution.
Quadrant 4: Actively Engage
The last section is the most critical on the entire stakeholder map, and it’s the “actively engage” section. This portion corresponds with both high influence and high interest, meaning the parties in this section will be your most important stakeholders.
These stakeholders will both have a lot of influence on the direction of the business, and also high hopes for the product itself. This makes them very dialed in with the ins and outs of the project and will be able to provide a comprehensive overview of what goals need to be achieved in the long term and aligning them with the touchpoints of the product.
These people should be involved regularly and consulted about the product because they are the most important interest group in relation to your business’ success. The optimal engagement strategy for this group will be frequent contact and strategic involvement as they are the most important stakeholders.
Optional: Categorize Stakeholders
After finishing the stakeholder map it is very helpful to take your findings and categorize the stakeholders into a couple of categories. Here are three categories that your stakeholders might fall into after you finish.
- Engaged Stakeholders: These are the parties that are committed to the product and should always stay in the know about. Their opinions are important and they will be impactful to all growth going forward.
- Interested Stakeholders: These parties, while using and enjoying the product, are not as engaged as the previous group. They should be monitored moving forward to make sure they aren’t fully lost.
- Users: Users are the core of the product and their feedback should always maintain importance in the creative process. While their feedback will not be as important or crucial as the engaged stakeholders, they must be prioritized in their own way with plenty of attention to their needs.
Stakeholder Mapping Advantages
Using a stakeholder map is hugely advantageous for teams that are looking to position their stakeholders on a shared visual board, but if you weren’t convinced here are some of the biggest advantages to using a stakeholder map.
Because the stakeholder map is dynamic and editable, you can change the organization of the parties at any time. Not only can you organize them differently, but you can rank them within the quadrants freely on an XY axis. This ranking system allows you to position different parties in slightly different locations based on their specific needs and opinions, something that is much harder to do without a visual board
Talk about the quadrants, using the template on an XY axis, and how that incorporates ranking within the organization
Creates Team Alignment
Using a collaborative interface means that people are able to share their opinions, preferences, and thought process in real-time. This transparency and communication creates a concrete, shared understanding between everyone working on the stakeholder map. Having this shared understanding is the easiest way to move forward with your engagement strategy and ensures people will be working towards the same end goal.
Jumpstarts Engagement Strategy
One of the main reasons to fill out a stakeholder map is to create an engagement strategy for the parties that are in each quadrant. This strategy can be really hard to determine when you don’t have a shared space to visualize all of their positions, so creating the stakeholder map is the easiest and quickest way to outline their situation. This is the first big step in creating an engagement strategy for your stakeholders and helps jumpstart the entire process.
By creating stakeholder maps you really get a good picture of not only all of the interested parties but how they relate to one another. Something that can be missing in lieu of a stakeholder map is an understanding of how different interests will conflict and battle for priority, but when viewing it on a visual space it becomes very clear.
By viewing interests on a visual platform you’re able to mitigate some of the risks that comes with pleasing the various parties and create a path forward that incorporates the best compromises for everyone involved.
Hopefully, this guide has helped break down stakeholder mapping and the biggest advantages to using one. Make sure you check out our newest article on the Ideascale blog about integrating design thinking and innovation.