When a small stone is dropped in a lake, it creates ripples that disturb the surface of the water, right? Similarly, every business project has the potential to affect everyone involved.
As your company grows, the projects that you undertake become more important, and they start to affect more and more people. These people also hold significant power and influence over your projects!
They are the stakeholders, and they can either be your biggest supporters – or they could be a roadblock. In other words, your stakeholders have the power to make or break your project.
So, you need to pinpoint who your key stakeholders are and win their support. You can do this through stakeholder mapping – a process of identifying, analyzing, prioritizing, and engaging your stakeholders.
So, what exactly is stakeholder mapping? How does it work? Why is it important? In this article, we’re going to explain all that and more. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
What is Stakeholder Mapping? (Definition)
Stakeholder mapping is a process of finding out the key individuals who are involved in the project and those who will be affected by the project.
In stakeholder mapping, all the stakeholders of a project are laid out on one idea map. This gives a clear visual representation of all the individuals who can affect the project and how they are connected to each other.
Moreover, through stakeholder mapping, you can gauge what powers are at play to help (or hinder) the success of your project, product, or service.
Here’s something important that you need to remember: don’t confuse stakeholders with shareholders.
Yes, shareholders own a part of a public company (through shares), and they are interested in the performance of the company, it doesn’t mean that you need to count them as a stakeholder for every project that you launch.
Stakeholders have an active interest in the performance of the company, and not just because it impacts the company’s stock performance.
Well, now that you know what stakeholder mapping is, it is time to explore five key reasons why you should perform stakeholder mapping. Ready? Let’s roll.
The 5 Key Benefits of Stakeholder Mapping
1. Categorizes The Stakeholders
One of the major benefits of stakeholder mapping is categorization. See, you might have multiple stakeholders, and you might have previously considered them as separate entities.
However, by building a stakeholder map, you can categorize them based on similarities. You can then create communication channels for each category and streamline future communications.
2. Guides Your Communication Plan
This feeds into benefit #1, but it’s worth pointing out that a stakeholder map forms the foundation of your stakeholder engagement strategy and communication plan.
With a stakeholder map in hand, you know who your stakeholders are, their interests, and their relevance. So, you can create your communication plan around this. Easy peasy!
For instance, stakeholders who have a significant interest in the project might need detailed and regular updates. Whereas, stakeholders with less interest may receive brief reports occasionally.
3. Helps in Prioritizing Stakeholders
No project has unlimited resources, and engaging with your stakeholders can likely take up some resources. This is why you should prioritize engagement with stakeholders who can have the most impact on your project.
By mapping out each stakeholder and the group they belong to, you can understand how relevant they are to the project. This will give you a sense of who needs to be prioritized and to what extent.
4. Alerts You About Potential Conflicts
Unfortunately, all the stakeholders involved might not have the same opinions about particular aspects of the project, and a conflict is likely to occur.
However, through stakeholder mapping, you can identify where your stakeholders many cross wires, and put measures in place to minimize any disruptions.
5. Increases Buy-In From Stakeholders
It goes without saying that stakeholders have a huge influence over your projects’ success, and without them, your project is a lot more likely to fail. This is why it’s important to gain stakeholder buy-in however you can.
Mapping your stakeholders before you start working on a project is likely to increase the buy-in from your stakeholders. It’s a simple way to make sure your stakeholder engagement goes well.
We know that we have convinced you to perform stakeholder mapping. So, let’s learn how to create a stakeholder map in four easy steps.
How to Create a Stakeholder Map in 4 Steps? (Process to Follow)
Step 1: Identify
This step is all about brainstorming who your stakeholders are. They could be internal (the top management, department supervisors, team members) or external (your clients, their extended team, end-users).
There can be multiple stakeholders in a project, and this list entirely depends on your organization and the objectives of your project. You might even need to revise the list as the project progresses.
While identifying potential stakeholders, try to answer these questions:
- Who has the most influence on the project?
- Who will be most impacted by the project?
- Who has ownership over the resources you need to carry out the project?
- Who has a huge financial stake or interest?
- Who is important to the project, but not a central stakeholder?
Step 2: Analyze
Now that you’ve identified the key stakeholders, it’s time to conduct stakeholder analysis. This involves determining how relevant each stakeholder is to the project and defining their roles and expectations.
Not every stakeholder is created equal – some might create a bigger impact on the project than others. The best way to assess this is by following a logical process.
Basically, use a matrix that maps out the stakeholders according to how much they’re contributing to the project, how much influence and involvement they have, and if they are willing to engage.
Step 3: Prioritize
In the second step, we uncovered who are the key players by mapping all the stakeholders based on their level of importance and influence on the project.
You need to effectively communicate with the key players you’ve identified and create buy-in. You can use a stakeholder matrix to organize everything and determine what action you need to take, including:
- Manage closely (high influence and high interest)
- Inform regularly (low influence but high interest)
- Keep satisfied (high influence but low interest)
- Monitor and anticipate needs (low influence and low interest)
The more interest and power a stakeholder holds, the more you need to keep them informed and engaged. Whereas, a stakeholder with low interest wouldn’t need as much information and engagement.
Step 4: Engage
Armed with all the information that you gathered till now, you can create a communication plan for engaging with stakeholders throughout the project.
Use all the data and insights that you’ve gathered and figure out the power, motivation, and priority of each key stakeholder. Most importantly, identify who are your biggest allies and who are the blockers/naysayers.
Creating a stakeholder map using a simple excel sheet won’t cut it. If you want to create a solid (and successful) stakeholder map, you need to use stakeholder mapping tools. Read on…
A Sneak Peek Into The Top Four Stakeholder Mapping Tools
Smaply offers high-resolution maps which you can use to understand your stakeholders’ perspectives and manage their expectations. It even lets you envision your products’ ecosystem and find connections.
You can link all the stakeholders with a drag-and-drop feature, and move them around on the map. The best part? You can link the stakeholders to a journey map and see how they can impact the user journey.
All in all, through this tool, you can understand how your key players are connected to each other, how they influence your product/service, and then use these insights to improve your operations.
Miro’s stakeholder map maker helps you create your stakeholder maps effortlessly. It has a smooth drag-and-drop editor, pre-made templates, and a powerful suite of widgets.
What’s more? It offers ‘workspaces’ where you can collaborate with your team in real-time. You can share your maps with the team directly from the dashboard and get their feedback.
To make your stakeholder maps more interactive, you can use sticky notes, shapes, freeform pens, arrows, and more. Miro also integrates with 20+ apps including Slack, Teams & Dropbox.
Moqups offers some fantastic stakeholder map templates that can help you identify, prioritize and understand the key stakeholders of your projects effectively.
Moqups also offers a wide range of features that can be extremely useful while creating a stakeholder map, such as comments, annotations, and sticky notes.
Besides that, Moqups offers real-time collaboration so you can build your stakeholder map along with others. You can also link your maps to wireframes, graphs, charts, and more.
Mural has a flat learning curve, and you can start using this stakeholder mapping tool with ease. It has powerful features that you can use to create solid stakeholder maps!
The tool offers frameworks using which you can organize your ideas in a better way. For example, you can build diagrams using a wide range of shapes and connectors.
Mural integrates with services such as MS Word, MS Excel, GitHub, Jira, and more, allowing you to build powerful workflows and stakeholder maps.
The success of your project doesn’t depend on you entirely. To get the project done, you need to engage with others and think strategically about who is involved and how.
It could be the founder of the company or the university president. It could be your clients, manager, and team members. It could also be the residents near the site of your construction project.
Even projects with great potential and budget might end up as failures if you fail to identify key stakeholders and classify them properly.
We know that there’s a lot to digest here, so if you’ve got any questions, suggestions, or concerns, hit us up on Twitter @bit_docs. We would be happy to help you!
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