A stakeholder is an individual person, a group, an organisation, or an aspect that has a certain interest in or a relationship to a specific topic, project, or business. Stakeholders both influence and affect, and are influenced and affected by, business projects, outcomes, and performance.
Internal stakeholders (e.g. employees) have a direct link to the business, whilst external stakeholders (e.g. suppliers and creditors) do not directly work for the company but are still affected by the outcome and performance of the company.Managing stakeholders can be complicated, especially when there is a high number of parties involved. Stakeholder mapping helps to visualise the ecosystem in which a product or service operates and organises all the stakeholders who can influence your project and how they are connected, in one map, like below:
Visualising this ecosystem in one place helps you to understand who is involved, reveal existing formal and informal relationships between stakeholders, identify frictions, and find new business opportunities by establishing new relationships and maintaining/improving existing ones. Essentially it presents everything you need to know, who the stakeholders are, their level of interest and influence, and how they are all connected, in one place.
Stakeholder mapping is essential to the success of any project. Most projects are influenced by a large number of different stakeholders, which can be hard to manage. Understanding their perspectives and how they are connected can help to better manage the different expectations, but when there are so many actors in play, this can be a very complex process.
If you are involved in managing or leading a project it is your responsibility to ensure the project is successfully delivered on time, to budget and to quality. Stakeholder mapping and stakeholder engagement are crucial to achieving these goals as it helps to manage risk. Essentially whenever you are starting a project it is essential that you first analyse, identify and map all your stakeholder relationships.
Meeting the stakeholders’ requirements and keeping them happy will reduce the risk of a project failure because managing them correctly encourages them to support, not sabotage you, and each stakeholder will require a different level of engagement and management.
More than Metrics suggests that there are four key benefits and functionalities of stakeholder mapping, which I have summarised below.
Zoom In and Focus
You are able to easily evaluate your competitors from your customer’s perspective and illustrate who the external stakeholders are that influence your business. It’s great for in-depth, niche analysis and insights.
Easily identify potential stakeholders you might have missed or overlooked to ensure you have considered and engaged with all contact points to ensure seamless project delivery.
Designing Resilient Product, Services and Systems
Easily identify relationships or partnerships that could be formed so that your organization leverages several parts of a system rather than relying on just one.
Mapping can help you communicate to your team and other stakeholders complex information, problems or systems, and also understand what level of communication is required for each stakeholder.
You can build your own Stakeholder map using the simple steps summarized below:
1. Define the scope, goals, and desired outcomes of your project
2. Identify your stakeholders (anybody involved or affected by the product or customer experience)
3. Prioritise your stakeholders based on their level of influence, interest, and importance
4. Illustrate the map with the most important stakeholders in the centre of the chart
5. Understand and illustrate relationships/ value exchanges between stakeholders using arrows
6. Analyse your completed stakeholder map and share and discuss with your team
Stakeholder mapping has many benefits and can really reduce the risk of project failure, but it does come with its own challenges too. Stakeholder mapping is naturally subjective and is therefore not an exact science. Additionally, a stakeholder map needs regular updates to stay current and beneficial, which can take time or resource from other business-critical areas. Finally, plotting a stakeholder on this matrix does not show their attitude towards the initiative, or their enthusiasm and level of positivity or negativity towards the product. Therefore, in some ways, it is oversimplified.
Despite the challenges above, a stakeholder map is a great organisational analysis tool that provides a valuable overview of everybody influenced and affected by, and everybody who influences and affects, the project or product. It is especially helpful for maintaining suitable levels of engagement and communication with different stakeholders, depending on their importance and interest, to retain their support throughout the process. This continued support, and fluid consistent communication is crucial for high-quality, on-time, product, or project delivery.
I’d be interested to hear from my network whether stakeholder mapping is something they utilise and why (or why not), and how it has helped them (or hindered them) with project delivery. Drop a message in the comment to share your thoughts!
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