Understanding the role of stakeholders in a business is key to meeting their shared expectations. Stakeholders’ actual opinions and needs can be a mystery, and unveiling these positions can provide valuable insight into the future. A solid understanding of what they want and how to communicate with them is necessary to meet their expectations and can be easily done by practicing stakeholder mapping.
Stakeholders should be differentiated from shareholders and can include anyone with a substantial interest in the product/service’s success. Contrarily, “shareholders” refers only to people with an ownership stake in the business. Thus, stakeholders can apply to a much more comprehensive array of customers, employees, and investors.
In this guide, we’ll define stakeholder mapping and discuss some of the biggest advantages of using a stakeholder map. Keep reading to learn why stakeholder mapping is crucial for any growing business.
What is Stakeholder Mapping?
Stakeholder mapping is defined as the process of identifying, diagramming, and prioritizing stakeholders by analyzing their influence and interest in a project. Stakeholders are mapped on a four-quadrant matrix with increasing interest and influence. Each quadrant will be categorized based on where the individual stakeholder falls on the scale.
The stakeholder map will identify all of the key parties with interests in your business and will effectively align them on an XY axis based on their relative interest and influence in your project. By doing this, you can effectively prioritize resource allocation, communication strategy, and product direction through the eyes of your stakeholders. Additionally, this diagram showcases the positions of all involved stakeholders, allowing you to easily reference and communicate this structure.
Who Are Your Stakeholders?
As previously mentioned, the term “stakeholders” covers more parties than just the shareholders. A stakeholder could be anyone with influence and interest in a given project, whether internal or external. The difference between internal and external stakeholders is key, and understanding the variance between the two will help create clear priorities for your project. Here are some of the differences between internal and external stakeholders.
Internal stakeholders are people who work with the business building, promoting, delivering, and participating in a project. Their level of involvement may vary, but they all have a direct connection to the project. Some examples of internal stakeholders could be:
- Managers (project, product, etc.)
External stakeholders are people who might have some connection to your project but aren’t on the inside. The project will impact them, but they don’t help build it. Some examples of external stakeholders could be:
Stakeholder mapping is generally beneficial to any business but applies in more specific scenarios. In these scenarios, there will typically be new stakeholders to address and new relationships to consider, so mapping them out can be extremely helpful.
Stakeholder Mapping Example
Stakeholder mapping is a visual representation of the relationships between an organization and its various stakeholders. It helps identify and analyze the interests, influence, and importance of different stakeholders in a project, initiative, or organization. Here’s an example of a stakeholder map:
Quadrant 1: High Influence, High Interest (Manage Closely)
Key Customers (Existing):
- Interest: High (Dependent on product/service)
- Influence: High (Provide valuable feedback)
- Interest: High (Financial performance)
- Influence: High (Can impact strategic decisions)
Quadrant 2: High Influence, Low Interest (Keep Satisfied)
Government Regulatory Bodies:
- Interest: Low (Not directly affected)
- Influence: High (Can impose regulations)
Quadrant 3: Low Influence, High Interest (Keep Informed)
Employee Union Representatives:
- Interest: High (Concerned about job security)
- Influence: Low (Limited impact on strategic decisions)
Quadrant 4: Low Influence, Low Interest (Monitor)
- Interest: Low (Indirectly affected by operations)
- Influence: Low (Limited impact on day-to-day activities)
Here are three examples of stakeholders to analyze in specific scenarios.
1. Creating an internal project
Internal projects usually have the least outside influence, so mapping the stakeholders is a reasonably straightforward process. For the most part, this will consist of the people with direct influence over the direction, creation, and development of the project. The stakeholders could include:
2. Entering a new market
Stakeholder groups get more complicated when business innovation is involved, and entering a new market is a situation where stakeholder mapping can be helpful. Here are some possible stakeholder groups for this scenario:
- Target Market: When entering a new market, there will be a new user persona to target and convert. What does this user look like? How are they different from other users? Try using a Persona Map if it’s difficult to understand a new customer profile.
- Existing Customers: Just because you’re entering a new market doesn’t mean your existing customers disappear. How does their experience change? How can they be optimized to combat isolation?
- New Partners: With new markets come new partners, sponsors, and opportunities. How do these partners interact with the business? Are there any subgroups to take note of? What partnerships are most important to achieve success?
3. Business Innovations
When innovating your business, there will be a mix of internal stakeholders and new external parties that you need to balance. Here are some parties to consider in this situation:
- Existing & New Customers: Understanding your customer’s needs is crucial to improving their experience. Ideally, your innovations will enhance the experience of existing customers and move your business forward to reach new customers. Try exploring a customer journey map if you need help mapping this experience.
- Investors: Expanding your business often comes with increased or new investment, and this could add investors or change the dynamic with existing partners. Consider how new investments could play a role in your stakeholder’s positioning and how this will reflect in their engagement & expectations.
- Ecosystem: When building a product, while the competitive ecosystem doesn’t have influence over your operations, it certainly can guide and inspire your work. Make sure to map our, potentially in a different color or on a different map, the influence that other products have on your plans and how that informs your stakeholders.
- Supply Chain: For businesses with physical products, creating a new item means formulating a new delivery chain or optimizing your existing one. Think about how these stakeholders are affected by your innovations and what changes you might make to accommodate them.
Which Stakeholders Do You Prioritize?
Understanding how to prioritize your stakeholders is a careful process and will depend on your internal and external business goals. This will also depend on the number of interested parties and how you plan to manage them. Prioritizing the right stakeholders is important, and it all starts by creating a stakeholder map.
The four quadrants of a stakeholder map help clarify how you can approach stakeholders with different levels of interest and influence. The four quadrants of a stakeholder map are:
- Low influence, low interest (Monitor)
- Low influence, high interest (Keep Informed)
- High influence, low interest (Keep Satisfied)
- High influence, high interest (Manage Closely)
Now that there is a brief understanding of the stakeholder map let’s explore how to utilize it to the fullest.
How to Use a Stakeholder Map
Whether you need to understand your stakeholder’s positioning better or need to develop specific solutions for them, a stakeholder map is a great tool to help analyze their needs. Here is a guide to creating a detailed stakeholder map.
The first step in creating a stakeholder map is brainstorming your internal and external stakeholders. Selecting which stakeholders to include will ultimately come down to preference, but it’s important to consider their influence, interest, past contributions, and potential impact. Additionally, if the goals of your collaborative workshop are different, this might affect who you include. If possible, try to include as many ownership parties as possible and integrate large-budget customers to understand the positioning of the most influential stakeholders.
The stakeholder map begins on an online whiteboard by brainstorming the stakeholders. You will analyze and map them into a note bank beside the matrix. This lets you group them together before considering where they fall on the matrix.
After you brainstorm the stakeholders, you will begin to map them out on the template. There are four sections that we will talk about below, each section corresponding to a different quadrant of the stakeholder map.
Quadrant 1: Monitor
The “monitor” section is at the bottom left of the stakeholder map and corresponds with the lowest level of influence and interest. This portion is where you will gather stakeholders who sit on the outer rim of the project and whose opinions don’t hold much formative say in your decision-making.
The optimal engagement strategy for these stakeholders is to monitor them periodically and stay partially engaged with them. Because they hold some interest but aren’t super engaged, it’s important to ensure that this interest is maintained over time. By monitoring their behavior and engagement, you can better understand what specifically draws them toward your business and what they are looking for. Through this, you can begin to push the things you know to pique their interest in an effort to increase their engagement.
Quadrant 2: Keep Informed
The “keep informed” section falls under high interest, but low influence, meaning many people in this portion will be extremely interested in the business but don’t have significant influence over its direction. An example of a user like this could be a regular customer who uses the product avidly but doesn’t have any influence on its direction.
With these stakeholders, it’s important to keep them informed and in the loop while maintaining their level of interest. While they might not have a formative say in the product, they feel more important when they’re filled in on the evolution of your business.
These stakeholders will be informed about the business and will be a key source of feedback as they continue to interact with the product/service. To receive consistent feedback, it’s key to maintain the stakeholder’s level of interest through product roadmaps, surveys, and other engagement mechanisms.
Quadrant 3: Keep Satisfied
The “keep satisfied” section is where people traditionally think to place most stakeholders, and this is where many influential parties will find themselves. This section falls onto the high influence low-interest portion of the diagram, meaning the parties in this section are highly influential to the business but not entirely interested in the day-to-day operations.
Stakeholders in this section are often parts of the ownership or funding groups.
When meeting the expectations of these stakeholders, you must be able to understand their goals for the business and incorporate them into your personal goals. Doing this can create win-win scenarios for the stakeholders and the business and keep them satisfied going forward.
This section of stakeholders can sometimes create conflict with other parties because, while they aren’t product champions, they have their own demands for the direction of the business. These demands may often clash with other people’s interests and will usually require a compromise to find a solution.
Quadrant 4: Actively Engage
The last section is the most critical on the entire stakeholder map and is the “actively engage” section. This portion corresponds with both high influence and high interest, meaning the parties in this section will be your most important stakeholders.
These stakeholders will have a lot of influence on the direction of the business and high hopes for the project itself. This means they are extremely interested in the business’s success but also are very influential in the overall decision-making process.
These people should be involved regularly and consulted about the product because they are the most important interest group in relation to your business’ success. The optimal engagement strategy for this group will be frequent contact and strategic involvement as they are the most important stakeholders.
Optional: Categorize Stakeholders
After finishing the stakeholder map, it is constructive to take your findings and categorize the stakeholders into a couple of sections. Here are three categories that your stakeholders might fall into after you finish.
- Engaged Stakeholders: These are the parties committed to the product and should always stay in the know. Their opinions are important, and they will be impactful to all growth going forward.
- Interested Stakeholders: These parties, while using and enjoying the product, are not as engaged as the previous group. They should be monitored moving forward to make sure they aren’t fully lost.
- Users: Users are the product’s core, and their feedback should always maintain importance in the creative process. While their feedback will not be as crucial as the engaged stakeholders, they must be prioritized in their own way with plenty of attention to their needs.
Categorizing stakeholders is another way of organizing them to create an effective engagement strategy. Whether you want to commit to a strategy based on the four quadrants above, or one that is dependent on engagement, these are both ways that a stakeholder map can create clear priorities for your business.
What are the Advantages of Stakeholder Mapping?
Using a stakeholder map is advantageous for teams looking to diagram their stakeholders, understand their positioning, and collaborate on possible solutions. If this isn’t reason enough, here are some of the biggest advantages of using a stakeholder map.
1. Create Informed Priorities
Mapping stakeholders isn’t just a visual tool; it helps position your stakeholders and informs you of their relative influence and power. This is an important consideration, and without stakeholder mapping, it can be difficult to discern which stakeholders carry the most influence.
2. Engage Stakeholders
One common goal of a stakeholder map is to create an engagement plan for the communication and integration of stakeholders into the project. Stakeholder mapping allows you to diagram who will be impacted the most, where the most resources come from, and what stakeholders you need to focus on in the future.
3. Enables Ranking
Because the stakeholder map is dynamic and editable, you can change the organization of the parties at any time. Not only can you organize them differently, but you can rank them within the quadrants freely on an XY axis. This ranking system allows you to position different parties in slightly different locations based on their specific needs and opinions, something that is much harder to do without a shared visual interface.
4. Creates Team Alignment
Using a collaborative interface means that people can share their opinions, preferences, and thought process in real time. This transparency and communication creates a concrete, shared understanding between everyone working on the stakeholder map. Having this shared understanding is the easiest way to move forward with your engagement strategy and ensures people will be working towards a shared end goal.
5. Jumpstarts Engagement Strategy
One of the main reasons to fill out a stakeholder map is to create an engagement strategy. This strategy is much easier to formulate when you can visualize the positioning of multiple different stakeholders on the same board. You can then directly compare them and build an engagement strategy that meets all of your goals.
6. Risk Aversion
By creating stakeholder maps, you get a good picture of not only all of the interested parties but how they relate to one another. Something that can be missing in lieu of a stakeholder map is an understanding of how different interests will conflict and battle for priority, but viewing it on a stakeholder map allows for direct comparison.
By viewing interests on an online whiteboard, you can mitigate some of the risks that come with pleasing the various parties and create the most mutually beneficial strategy for you and your stakeholders.
Benefits of Stakeholder Mapping
Stakeholder mapping offers several benefits for organizations and projects. It is a valuable tool for strategic planning, risk management, and effective stakeholder engagement. Here are some of the key benefits of stakeholder mapping:
- Improved Understanding of Stakeholders: Stakeholder mapping allows organizations to identify and categorize all relevant stakeholders, helping them gain a comprehensive understanding of who is affected by or can affect the project or organization.
- Prioritization: By categorizing stakeholders based on their level of interest and influence, organizations can prioritize their efforts and resources, focusing on those with the most significant impact on the project’s success.
- Tailored Communication: Understanding the interests, needs, and concerns of different stakeholder groups enables organizations to tailor their communication strategies. This ensures that messages and interactions are relevant and resonate with each stakeholder, increasing the likelihood of support and cooperation.
- Risk Mitigation: By identifying potential opponents and understanding their concerns, organizations can proactively address issues and mitigate risks. This can help prevent conflicts and challenges that might otherwise arise unexpectedly.
- Resource Allocation: Effective stakeholder mapping helps organizations allocate their resources, such as time, budget, and personnel, more efficiently. They can focus on high-priority stakeholders and areas that will have the most impact.
- Conflict Resolution: When conflicts or disputes do arise, having a clear stakeholder map can provide a framework for resolving issues. It helps in identifying the root causes of conflicts and developing strategies for resolution.
- Support for Decision-Making: Stakeholder maps offer valuable insights for decision-making processes. Understanding the potential impact of various decisions on different stakeholders can guide organizations in making choices that align with their goals and values.
- Enhanced Reputation and Trust: Effective engagement with stakeholders can build trust and enhance an organization’s reputation. This is particularly important for businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies seeking public support and trust.
- Long-Term Relationship Building: By maintaining open and constructive relationships with key stakeholders, organizations can foster long-term partnerships that benefit both parties. This is especially important for sustainability and long-term success.
- Regulatory Compliance: In some industries, regulatory agencies, and government bodies may be stakeholders with significant influence. Understanding and meeting their requirements can help organizations stay in compliance and avoid legal issues.
- Innovation and Collaboration: Identifying potential collaborators and partners among stakeholders can lead to innovative solutions and collaborative opportunities that may not have been apparent without stakeholder mapping.
- Continuous Improvement: Stakeholder mapping is a dynamic process that should be revisited regularly to adapt to changing circumstances and evolving stakeholder interests. This process of continual review and adaptation helps organizations stay responsive and effective.
Stakeholder mapping is a valuable tool that can improve decision-making, reduce risks, enhance relationships, and contribute to the overall success of an organization or project by providing a comprehensive view of the stakeholders involved and their respective roles and interests.
How Does Ideascale Whiteboard Help You Map Stakeholder Interest?
IdeaScale Whiteboard is the perfect platform to map stakeholder interest, create an engagement strategy, and collaborate on shared tasks to ensure your map brings actionable change. As a part of this, you’ll be able to assess:
- The motivations and priorities of each stakeholder
- Comparative influence and interest between parties
- Potential roadblocks towards your goals
All of these underlying details can be answered by using Ideascale Whiteboard and collaborating with your team. Additionally, any of these details can be expanded upon in another section of your board, allowing you to analyze smaller details parallel to your stakeholder map. This versatility means Ideascale Whiteboard is able to combine multiple different collaboration exercises at once to provide a holistic experience.
If you are concerned about how to engage your stakeholders and how they compare with each other, stakeholder mapping is the perfect exercise to conduct with your team.