Stakeholders Mapping

How to use stakeholder mapping to build better products, faster?

Product managers understand the value that great products create for their organizations. To outshine the competition, product leaders embrace innovative methodologies and technologies to identify opportunities and build great products at the speed of business. 
Stakeholder mapping is one of the most commonly used techniques that product teams use to win early buy-in from key stakeholders and gain essential insights to kick-start their project and keep everyone aligned with the goals and objectives of the project. 
In this blog, we’ll learn about stakeholder mapping, how it allows seamless and speedy development, and how to conduct stakeholder mapping for your project

What is stakeholder mapping? 

According to Miro, stakeholder mapping is “the visual process of laying out all the stakeholders of a product, project, or idea on one map.”

It can be a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it. It’s best to do it as a group exercise where all your team members brainstorm and help you build a comprehensive list of the key players in the project. 
Depending on the scope of your project, the impact it can create for other teams and end-users, and the size of your organization, your list can include only a few stakeholders or have too many influencers. These stakeholders can be internal and external to the organization, such as C-level executives, product teams, designers, developers, investors, and customers. 

Stakeholder mapping is essential to building great products at a faster pace 

The biggest benefit of stakeholder mapping is that product managers can identify who holds power, who can help them, and who can create bottlenecks and delay the project. In addition, by mapping the key influencers early in the process, product leaders can secure early buy-in from these individuals and departments. 
The map also enables product teams to see how these stakeholders relate to the project (in terms of influence and interest) and how they connect. These insights help them win support from the teams that own the resources needed to get the project off the ground and build an effective communication plan to keep everyone aligned with the goals and objectives of the project. In a nutshell, a stakeholder map enables product managers to secure resources, gain insights/ideas from crucial influencers, and eliminate or minimize friction throughout the project.  

How to build a stakeholder map?

In stakeholder analysis and mapping, a product manager first identifies the key players in the project. Next, they create a list of these influencers with the help of their team members. Once the team completes and organizes the list, the next step involves visually mapping these stakeholders on a four-quadrant map. 
Next, stakeholders are mapped according to their influence and interest in the project. Finally, product teams can determine the frequency and intensity of communication with each stakeholder based on where they are placed on the shareholder map. Although different teams and managers can go about creating their shareholder maps in different ways, the process typically involves the following steps: 

Step 1: Identify the key stakeholders 

The first step in building a stakeholder map is to identify and list all the stakeholders in your project - internal and external. To develop a comprehensive list of key influencers across the organization and outside, you should invite all your team members and senior leadership, if desired, to brainstorm and create a list of stakeholders. It is also important to note that the stakeholders' roles and interest levels will vary throughout your project, so you will need to regularly review your list. 

Step 2: Prioritize these stakeholders

After you complete the list of all the stakeholders that can impact or be affected by what you plan to develop, the next step is to group them and prioritize on a four-quadrant interest-influence matrix where the x-axis measures the influence and the y-axis shows the interest level of each stakeholder. These quadrants denote: 

  • High interest, high influence — Since these players can make or break your project, it is essential to manage these stakeholders closely.
  • High interest, low influence  — Just keep them satisfied. However, there is no need to hover too much by checking in frequently with them, as this might make them lose interest in what you’re creating. 
  • Low influence, high interest — This is the category of stakeholders which you need to keep informed. Keep them in the loop to regularly update them on the project's progress.
  • Low influence, low interest — Since they are low in influence and interest, it’s better only to monitor them. So monitor these stakeholders periodically but don’t over-communicate with them.
Stakeholder Mapping

 Step 3: Create a plan to engage with the stakeholders

This step requires product managers to use all the information and insights gathered in the previous steps to build a plan to engage and communicate effectively with key stakeholders. While creating such a plan, product teams can consider factors such as:

  • What drives these stakeholders (their goals, motivations, etc.)?
  • Who can be your biggest allies and support you throughout the project?
  • Who can be the potential naysayers?

Creating this plan will help you seek buy-ins from the key players in your project and effectively deal with the less-enthusiastic stakeholders.  

The Take-Away

Stakeholder mapping is a powerful tool for identifying the key influencers in a project. Across the globe, product managers conduct stakeholder mapping exercises to determine who can impact or be impacted by what they plan to develop and categorize them on a map as per their interest and influence. 
The insights gathered from stakeholder mapping help product teams secure early buy-ins from the departments that own the resources needed to launch the project and helps teams to build products quickly and effectively.