Publication by Miro about the future of distributed teamwork

Complete Stakeholder
Mapping Guide

As many leading companies advocate for a less hierarchical organizational structure, product developers feel more empowered to innovate and drive change even if they don’t hold senior positions. This shift generates a lot of positive changes, but it also means communication and alignment are even more important to make sure your project is not blocked by an important decision-maker.

One of the best ways to make sure you get buy-in from all the key players is stakeholder analysis and mapping. We created a step-by-step guide to help you navigate this process and make sure your projects and products are supported within your organization so you can make a real impact.

Anna has written about experience design, product development, and workshop facilitation. She has been working in distributed teams for three years, and she is passionate about helping these teams to succeed.

What is stakeholder mapping?

Stakeholder mapping is the visual process of laying out all the stakeholders of a product, project, or idea on one map. The main benefit of a stakeholder map is to get a visual representation of all the people who can influence your project and how they are connected.

Sometimes, people confuse stakeholders with shareholders. While shareholders own a part of a public company (through shares of stock) and are interested in the company’s performance, it doesn’t mean they should be stakeholders of each project or product launched by the company. Stakeholders can work on a more granular level and they are also often interested in the project’s or product’s performance, not just because it affects the company’s stock performance.

Here’s an example of a stakeholder map:

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When a stakeholder map is critical

It’s good to have a detailed stakeholder map and know how to involve the right people when you plan to launch a major project or product.

1. Building a product

When building a new product from scratch you’ll need to know the stakeholders for different groups. The number and the roles of stakeholders may vary depending on the type of product you are working on. Here is a list of potential stakeholders for this situation:

  • Customers/users. Knowing your audience is critical for creating a product that people will love. Think of the groups of people you are serving and their needs. To better segment your customer base, we recommend using our User Personas template.
  • Industries/markets. As a product developer, you can’t ignore what’s happening in your field, so brainstorming potential competitors, outlining market regulations, and writing down major trends can be very useful.
  • Suppliers. For certain products (and especially for digital platforms like Airbnb, Uber, BlaBlaCar, and others), generating a supply of certain services is as important as creating demand. If you are building a platform, what are the key suppliers and how you can ‘subsidize’ one side of the demand/supply equation if needed.
  • Investors. If your product needs substantial investments, you might want to include venture capital firms as major stakeholders since they will have the power to influence your product’s future.

2. Penetrating a market

If you’re trying to penetrate a new market with your product you’ll also need to designate a few stakeholder groups:

  • New customers. Trying asking yourself what are the needs of those who haven’t heard about your product yet. Are there any subgroups within this group? We suggest using Personas template to better understand your new customers.
  • Old customers. Which Personas are critical for your sustainable growth? Adding them to your map and understanding their challenges is key to your product’s success.
  • New retailers. Who are the main external stakeholders for your project? Whether you are creating a physical or a digital product, you need strong partnerships to reach new audiences.

3. Starting a new project

Starting a new project will also need stakeholders internally. Here is how a list of stakeholders might look like:

  • Project Manager
  • Developer
  • Designer
  • CEO/C-Level exec

The two types of stakeholders

Whether you are planning a major product launch or kicking off an internal program that mostly affects your team, it’s important to understand the different types of stakeholders. Each product or project has internal and external stakeholders, and drawing a clear line between the two will help you set the right priorities and find the approach that works for your specific situation.

Internal stakeholders

Internal stakeholders are people on your team who are participating in building your product or delivering a project. Their level of engagement may vary but they all have an influence because they are a part of your organization. Here is how a list of internal stakeholders might look like:

  • CEO / C-level executive
  • Product owner
  • Project manager
  • Designer
  • Developer

External stakeholders

External stakeholders are those who will be impacted by your project and product, though they don’t directly participate in working on it. Here is how a list of external stakeholders might look:

  • CEO / C-level executive
  • Product owner
  • Project manager
  • Designer
  • Developer

How to prioritize your project stakeholders

Depending on the complexity of the project or a product, you can have just a couple of stakeholders for a small project or dozens of them if the project brings a big change to your organization. When you are dealing with a lot of internal and external stakeholders, it is very important to prioritize them. One of the best ways to do that is to use a matrix to analyze the power that stakeholders have over your project and their level of interest in it.

As the matrix shows, all stakeholders can fall into four categories:

  • High power, highly interested people (Manage Closely)
  • High power, less interested people (Keep Satisfied)
  • Low power, highly interested people (Keep Informed)
  • Low power, less interested people (Monitor)

Four benefits of stakeholder mapping

Stakeholder mapping allows you to identify key players that will influence your project and its success.

1. Find out who has the most influence

When you build a stakeholder map, you can easily see who will have the highest level influence over a project, whether it’s the CEO or a project manager.

2. Focus on those who benefit most

Stakeholder maps help you see who will benefit most from the end-product, so you can focus on marketing to that person for either sales or resources.

3. See where resources are most plentiful

Often when you build a stakeholder map, you’ll see who has restraints on the project and who has more resources, so internally you can put the right people on your team.

4. Have a game plan

Overall, a stakeholder map gives you a good idea of who you’re trying to satisfy when building this product/project.

Four steps to building a stakeholder map

Here is how you build a stakeholder map:

1. Brainstorming

Start by identifying all the potential stakeholders — people, groups, or organizations affected by your product or project, those who have influence over it, or have an interest or concern in its success. Write down their names on a whiteboard or in a shared virtual space. At this point, try to be as granular as possible — you can always eliminate duplicates or those who actually don’t have ‘skin in the game’ later.

2. Categorization

Now it’s time to group the results of your brainstorming. Are there any stakeholders that can be put into one category? How can you name this category? Are there any types of stakeholders you forgot about? To make sure you didn’t forget about any of the key players, check out the ‘When stakeholder map is critical’ section to see examples of the types of stakeholders different projects require.

3. Prioritization

To create a communication plan, you have to prioritize key stakeholders and make sure you start talking to them early in the project. There are different ways you can prioritize the stakeholders. You can use the matrix we shared above, or you can ask your team to vote so you can see how the group defines the main players.

4. Stakeholder communications

Once your priorities are defined, it’s important to come up with a plan for engaging all the major stakeholders. There is no single recipe that can fit all possible situations, but here are some best practices that can help you create transparency and accountability for your project:

  • You should have a lot of face-to-face communication with high-power, highly interested people. Building trust with them first is critical for your project.
  • If someone is opposed to the project, you can get a buy-in from someone with the same level of power first and then ask the latter to persuade the former.
  • Communicating early and often is also important, because people will need time to think before making a decision.
  • Give each stakeholder a right amount of information depending on their interest. Some people need just an executive summary, while others will want to dive deeper.

Build a free stakeholder
map with Miro

Miro’s free template can help you build a useful stakeholder map for your next project!

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