How to Map Out Your Stakeholders

When launching a project or releasing a new product, it’s essential to understand who could be impacted by the changes you’re making. This process is called stakeholder mapping.

Stakeholder mapping allows you to evaluate stakeholders based on their power and interest in the project. This helps determine your engagement strategy for each group.

Identifying Stakeholders

As you brainstorm with your team, write every name down that comes to mind that has a stake in the success of your project or product. Include people and organizations that have a direct impact on the project as well as those who will have an indirect impact.

Once you have your list, you will need to analyze it. You can do this by plotting stakeholders on a matrix with the y-axis measuring their influence over the project and the x-axis measuring their level of interest.

Those with the most influence and interest should be managed closely, as they have the ability to change or block your project’s progress. The ones with less influence and interest should be monitored, but don’t require frequent updates on the project’s status. It is a good idea to reassess stakeholders on a regular basis, or at least before every new project stage. This will help you determine how to manage and engage your stakeholders going forward.

Analyzing Stakeholders

Stakeholder analysis helps you categorize stakeholders into a couple of groups that can help your team manage their expectations. Promoters are the group of people who have both a significant interest and influence over your project, while defenders are those who might want to derail it. The key is to be able to quickly identify which stakeholder group you are communicating with to avoid any unwanted surprises down the road.

There are many different ways to do this – some teams prefer to use a whiteboard or a shared virtual space to brainstorm all of the potential stakeholders for their project, while others may opt for a more structured approach with spreadsheets and columns that make notes about attributes such as their level of influence and interest. There are also fit-for-purpose stakeholder mapping software tools to simplify this process, but they do come with a cost and require some training to use effectively.

Prioritizing Stakeholders

The final step is to prioritize your stakeholders based on their influence and interest. While it’s important to include all stakeholders in your project, not everyone needs equal attention.

For example, a stakeholder with high influence but low interest might need monitoring but won’t require frequent updates on project progress. On the other hand, a stakeholder with low influence and high interest might need to be kept in the loop about major project milestones.

A comprehensive stakeholder map can help you avoid misallocating resources by ensuring your team’s time is spent engaging the right people at the right times. This can reduce the risk of a product launch that fails to meet customer expectations, which is one of the top reasons projects fail according to a number of experts. It can also improve the quality of your team’s work and build trust with your customers. This is especially true when using fit-for-purpose tools that can visualize and analyze your data in a meaningful way.

Engaging Stakeholders

Having a clear understanding of the different groups of stakeholders and their interests helps you prioritize the engagement you should do. It also allows you to create an engagement plan that fits each group, rather than trying to fit everyone into the same communication strategy (an approach that often leads to frustration and wasted time).

Stakeholders who perform high on both axes of the stakeholder map graphic should be given priority, especially when it comes to keeping them informed and engaged. These stakeholders may be able to provide valuable feedback, particularly on new products and features.

In some cases, it might be necessary to interview individual stakeholders to gain an in-depth understanding of their needs and motivations. These interviews can be a great way to get a feel for the type of interaction that will work best for each stakeholder group. This could be anything from a quick phone call or text, to face-to-face meetings or presentations.