Stakeholder mapping is a valuable tool that could determine the lifecycle of your next important project or product launch. To develop new initiatives or projects, you’ll need support from your stakeholders.
By visualising your key stakeholders, you can plan with greater confidence and avoid potential hazards at an early stage.
How do I identify potential stakeholders?
Every business is an ecosystem. Within this ecosystem are the individuals, groups and organisations that have a vested interest in your company. These are your stakeholders, and they impact how and why you do business.
Your stakeholders are also involved with or affected by the development and completion of projects. After all, the outcome of a project could have a positive or negative impact on their finances or career aspirations. According to Harvard Business Review, identifying your stakeholders comes down to 5 key questions.
How can I categorise my stakeholders?
To organise possible stakeholders, you must try to understand who has a stake in your project. These could include new customers, the management or those in charge of resources or funding. Your stakeholders can be categorised as internal and external stakeholders.
Your internal stakeholders could be:
- Project team
- Project manager
- Higher management
Your external stakeholders could be:
- Wider community
Many people confuse stakeholders with shareholders, but they are actually very different. A stakeholder is someone who has a ‘stake in’ your project or product. A shareholder, on the other hand, is someone who owns stocks in your company.
What is stakeholder mapping?
Stakeholder mapping is the process of visualising and arranging the key stakeholders of your project or idea on a map. This is sometimes referred to as a stakeholder matrix. Having a visual representation of your stakeholders helps categorise your stakeholder groups and understand their interests and motives.
When you create a stakeholder map, you’ll be able to undertake stakeholder analysis and build a direct stakeholder communications plan. You’ll also be able to understand who has the most influence and interest in your project.
This will help you closely monitor and anticipate their needs and get buy-in throughout the lifecycle of your project.
What are the advantages of stakeholder mapping?
Creating a stakeholder map for each of your projects is an incredibly important undertaking. Without stakeholder mapping, you could run the risk of endangering your project or hindering business development. Here are some of the amazing advantages of stakeholder mapping.
- Stakeholder mapping can turn those with the largest influence on your project into the biggest supporters.
- If projects require more resources or further financial investment, a stakeholder map can enlist key support early on.
- Stakeholder maps can address any concerns and conflicts that might arise during the lifecycle of your project.
- By visualising your stakeholders, you’ll be able to build an engagement strategy that can be used in the future.
How do you create a stakeholder map?
Stakeholders may have a high influence and interest in the overall success and development of a project. This is why it’s important to undertake stakeholder mapping as part of your project management strategy. Creating stakeholder maps usually involve four key steps.
You can start to identify stakeholders by listing everyone who is involved with your project. This could include your team members, customer base, end-users and anyone with a financial stake in your project. Your list may include customers with an emotional interest in your new project. Or a party who could provide other resources should you need them.
Once you identify key players, you can then perform a stakeholder analysis. There are two main categories to consider: those who can impact a project and those impacted by it.
Your stakeholder analysis should help you understand, and target interested people involved with your project. One of the best ways to prioritise your stakeholders is to use a stakeholder matrix or map.
Using your list of relevant stakeholders and your stakeholder analysis, you can begin to build your stakeholder map. The stakeholder mapping process involves splitting a box into four. You would then use a y-axis and x-axis to determine the power and influence of your key players. Usually, this would take the following form:
- High power: high interest
- High power: low interest
- Low power: high interest
- Low power: low interest
Use the following stakeholder map template or any stakeholder analysis template to build your own stakeholder map.
By analysing your stakeholders against certain criteria, such as their level of influence, you can create a prioritised list. Your prioritised list will help you build a communication strategy that will keep your stakeholders informed and engaged throughout.
Building a stakeholder communication plan
Communicating with stakeholders is an invaluable skill in business. Once your stakeholder map is created, you can devise an effective communication strategy to engage all your major stakeholders. This will most likely be based on their legitimacy, resources and decision-making abilities. Here are our best practices for effective stakeholder communication:
Use your map to manage and determine an effective communication strategy. For example, you should communicate early and manage closely your high power and highly interested parties. You should simply monitor and manage those with lower levels of influence and low interest.
Provide tailored communication
It’s tempting to categorise key players and then apply the same communication techniques to each group. However, effective stakeholder management should involve tailored communication based on the needs of each stakeholder. You should know a little bit about your stakeholders and how they like to communicate.
Communicate early and clearly
Part of your project management strategy should involve communication with your stakeholders as early and as clearly as possible. Avoid jargon, present the facts and be as transparent as you can. Manage their expectations and remember to be honest, even when it comes to sharing bad news. Remember, communication and authenticity go hand in hand.
According to the Project Management Institute, participation is key to stakeholder engagement. Always keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your project stakeholders. Stay in touch, and provide them with an easy method of communication, whether it’s through emails or face-to-face meetings.