What is Stakeholder Mapping? Definition, Guide, Tools & Matrix Template

What is Stakeholder Mapping? Definition, Guide, Tools & Matrix Template

By Henri Gisclard-Biondi & Coralie Petit
Updated: May 14, 2024, first publication: March 2021

Stakeholder mapping is key when it comes to evaluating the influence and interest of project stakeholders. Knowing how to sort and handle stakeholders will affect the outcome of your project, and with a proper stakeholder map, you will be able to navigate your way around obstacles more effectively.

Large businesses must find ways to assess their potential impact and the risks associated with their projects.

Stakeholders' communications should be oriented towards the right interlocutors and match their expectations.

This article will teach you how to create a stakeholder map to never lose sight of who you should keep in the loop. Along the way, you’ll learn how to use the power/interest matrix to categorize stakeholders into meaningful groups. 🤔

What is Stakeholder Mapping?

A Simple Definition of Stakeholder Mapping

Stakeholder mapping is the process of drawing a visual representation of the various people involved in or impacted by the project. This visual tool should provide a clear picture of whom the various stakeholder groups are, as well as their motives and interests.

Stakeholder maps are designed to facilitate the evaluation of your environment by highlighting what powers are at play to help or hinder the progress of your project.

Visual representation of the spheres of influence and nature of project stakeholders© The Design Thinking Salon

The example above shows a possible way of drawing a stakeholder map.

💡 Be aware that this example of stakeholder mapping is but one of the various methods you can choose from to represent stakeholders and their influence.

Though stakeholder maps can take different shapes and forms, they should always be:

  • Easy to read, as their goal is to be used as a quick tool for decision-making;
  • Comprehensive, since only a complete overview of the relevant stakeholders can provide useful information;
  • Organized into groups based on the nature, common interests and level of influence of the various stakeholders.

Is Stakeholder Mapping a Theory?

Stakeholder mapping is not a theory itself; it's a practical tool used in project management and business strategy.

It is based on the principles of stakeholder theory, which emphasizes considering the interests of all stakeholders in organizational decisions.

Additionally, it aligns with systems theory, highlighting the interconnectedness of organizational actions and stakeholder reactions, and is a key component in strategic management for optimizing relationships to achieve business goals.

What are the Different Types of Stakeholders?

Though stakeholders can regroup a wide range of widely different people and organizations, most can be sorted into two groups: internal and external stakeholders.

Internal stakeholders

This group includes the project team and general management at your company. They are all the actors within your organization who have an interest in seeing the project succeed or have an impact on decision-making or project resources.

Internal stakeholders include:

  • The project sponsor is the person by whom the project was launched and who defines its scope and goals. They oversee the project’s development and elaborate a strategy;
  • The project manager, whose role is to pilot the project team. They are responsible for the results achieved by the project team;
  • The project team members, who assigned to develop the project. They are placed under the authority of the project manager;
  • The C-Suite and/or high-level executives at your organization are the final decision-makers within your company. They support the project sponsor and project manager by allocating resources to the project and vesting authority in their decisions;
  • Other business departments, which could include finance, marketing, R&D or any other department the project team could need to contact or collaborate with.

☝️ The project sponsor can also be an external stakeholder if they are a client or any third-party actor.

External stakeholders

These comprise all external people and institutions which could be affected or targeted by the project. They also include all actors who have the power to influence the development or outcome of your project.

Find common external stakeholders examples below.

  • Customers or end-users should be included in the project as stakeholders, insofar as they are ultimately the ones your project deliverables are aimed at. Whether the result of your project suits their needs will determine its success, or not;
  • Suppliers participate in the smoothness of the development process by providing the raw resources, technology, and services needed to complete the project;
  • The Government and local authorities wield considerable power over any project, as it must abide by standards or obtain specific approval;
  • Influencers and action groups are also external stakeholders, as your project can be supported by or hindered by activists, associations, or opinion leaders.

💡 External stakeholders are not limited to the examples listed above. They include anyone who could have an interest in seeing your project fail or succeed, as well as anyone impacted by the activities of your business.

What are Stakeholders in Project Management?

Project stakeholders are people or organizations impacted by the project of a business or by its activity at large.

In other words, stakeholders are any party with a direct or indirect interest in your project, for the latter might have a positive or negative impact on the stakeholder, or vice versa.

Why is Stakeholder Mapping Important?

Stakeholder mapping can provide the insight your projects require to reach completion smoothly. This technique plays a key role in stakeholder management.

The benefits of using stakeholder maps should not be overlooked. These make it easier to:

  • Identify the key players at a glance, meaning you know who to target, monitor or inform at each stage of the project;
  • Make decisions quickly or hold consultations without overlooking important stakeholders;
  • Assess the power and understand the interests of each stakeholder to define strategies and communication plans accordingly.

These benefits are especially important in all kinds of endeavors, including:

  • Planning the launch of a new product or service;
  • Implementing all kinds of marketing strategies such as a loyalty program or ad campaign;
  • Conducting market research to enter a new country or market.

What are the 4 Steps of Stakeholder Mapping?

Step 1: Define Project Goals and Stakeholder Objectives

Clarifying Project Goals

Before engaging with stakeholders, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of what the project intends to achieve.

This step involves defining:

  • the specific outcomes,
  • deliverables,
  • and timelines that the project aims to meet.

By establishing clear project goals, you provide a benchmark against which stakeholder interests and potential impacts can be measured.

Identifying Stakeholder Objectives

After defining the project goals, the next task is to anticipate and outline the potential objectives of various stakeholders concerning these goals.

This involves thinking critically about what different stakeholders might hope to gain or lose from the project's success or failure.

Understanding these objectives early helps in crafting strategies that align stakeholder needs with project aims, thereby fostering cooperation and minimizing resistance.

Aligning Goals with Stakeholder Interests

This part of the process requires a strategic approach to align the project’s goals with the identified stakeholder objectives wherever possible.

This alignment is key to engaging stakeholders effectively, as it ensures that their needs are considered and addressed within the scope of the project.

It also helps in prioritizing which stakeholders require a more focused engagement based on their influence and interest.

Step 2: Identify the Stakeholders

Identifying the key stakeholders can prove an arduous task. For the list to be as exhaustive as possible, you could organize them into 3 spheres.

Leaders

The project sponsor can be placed at the top of this category.

It regroups all the people and organizations whose decisions will determine the project lifecycle. They are directly involved in the project and wield considerable media, technical or organizational influence.

Contributors

List the people without whom your project cannot reach its objectives.

This list of stakeholders includes the project manager and their team, relevant business departments, but also external stakeholders such as:

  • suppliers,
  • clients,
  • and officials who provide authorizations or permits.

Bystanders

Some institutions would be more likely to observe the development of your project from a distance before becoming engaged. Such is the case with some media or communities who, though they might not be directly interested in the project, might be susceptible to showing more interest later on.

These stakeholders could take a stand for or against your project throughout its development.

Step 3: Analyze the Stakeholders Using the Power/Interest Matrix

To conduct an efficient stakeholder analysis, you must first assess their level of engagement regarding the project.

💡 Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What interest does this stakeholder have in my project?
  • What will be their impact on the project? Do they have a high level of influence over the project?
  • In what ways do they benefit/suffer from the change brought about by the project?
  • How can they contribute to the project?
  • What could be their motives?

To help you gain a clear understanding of what stakeholder groups are at play, use the power/interest matrix. This matrix can act as a guide to create groups based on the level of interest and level of influence of stakeholders.

Once each stakeholder is identified as one of the 4 groups above, you can start devising your stakeholder management strategies.

📣 Scroll down for a free template.

Satisfy, engage, inform or monitor stakeholders© Appvizer

Step 4: Develop Engagement Strategies

Based on the analysis from the previous step, develop tailored strategies to engage each stakeholder group effectively.

This involves deciding how to communicate with them, manage their expectations, and involve them in the project process to harness their support and mitigate potential risks.

According to the respective position of stakeholders on the power/interest grid, you can adopt a suitable approach.

Use the following table to find strategic advice. Feel free to enrich your communication plan based on the stakeholders' legitimacy, resources or professional network.

Stakeholder Profile Recommended Actions
High power

High interest

ENGAGE
  • Hold consultations with the stakeholders
  • Offer a partnership
  • Promote joint decisions
  • Keep them closely informed and be available
High power

Low interest

SATISFY
  • Monitor their satisfaction
  • Keep them informed
  • If possible, take action to raise their interest to high levels
Low power

High interest

INFORM
  • Keep them informed
  • Hold surveys to gather opinions and insight
  • Offer ambassador roles
Low power

Low interest

MONITOR
  • No need to reach out to them
  • Make basic information available
  • Monitor their reactions to react if adverse opinions take hold

What Should Be Done After Building a Stakeholder Map?

You should continuously monitor the effectiveness of your stakeholder engagement strategies and make adjustments as needed.

Stakeholder dynamics can change as the project progresses, so it’s important to stay responsive to new information and shifts in stakeholder attitudes or positions. 🧐

Power/Interest Matrix Free Template

💡 Don’t know where to start? Download our free Power/Interest matrix template to get you started right away!

Download Your Free Power Interest Matrix Template

Download

What are the Tools to Create a Stakeholder Map?

Creating a stakeholder map can be done using various tools, ranging from simple graphical tools to specialized software designed for stakeholder analysis.

Here are some common tools used for creating stakeholder maps. 👇

Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets

Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets offer a familiar, spreadsheet-based approach for organizing and analyzing stakeholder data, ideal for those who prefer a straightforward, tabular format.

  • 👍 Pros: Flexible and widely available, these spreadsheet programs can be used to list stakeholders, assess their interests and influence, and organize them into categories.
  • 👎 Cons: Limited visual mapping capabilities unless used in conjunction with other tools.

Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides

Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides provide a visual platform to create dynamic stakeholder maps, leveraging graphical elements like charts and diagrams to illustrate relationships.

  • 👍 Pros: Useful for creating more visual stakeholder maps. You can use shapes, arrows, and charts to represent different stakeholders and their relationships.
  • 👎 Cons: May require more manual effort to update or adjust the map.

Mind Mapping Software

Mind mapping software allow for the creation of intuitive and visually engaging stakeholder maps, making it easy to see connections and hierarchies at a glance.

  • ⚒️ Examples: MindMeister, XMind, or Lucidchart.
  • 👍 Pros: These tools are great for creating visual representations, allowing easy adjustments and offering various templates for stakeholder maps.
  • 👎 Cons: Might require a subscription for advanced features.

Specialized Stakeholder Management Tools

Specialized stakeholder management tools are tailored for in-depth stakeholder analysis, offering advanced features that track engagement and impact over the project lifecycle.

  • ⚒️ Examples: Smaply, StakeholderMap.com, or Boreal-IS.
  • 👍 Pros: Designed specifically for stakeholder mapping, these tools often include features for tracking changes, analyzing data, and integrating with other project management software.
  • 👎 Cons: Can be more expensive and require training to use effectively.

Project Management Software

Project management software integrates stakeholder mapping into broader project tracking mechanisms, providing a holistic view of project progress and stakeholder engagement.

  • ⚒️ Examples: Trello, Asana, or monday.com.
  • 👍 Pros: These tools typically have built-in features for managing stakeholders as part of broader project management functionalities.
  • 👎 Cons: Stakeholder mapping might not be as detailed as with specialized tools.

Each of these tools has its strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice depends on the specific needs of your project, the level of detail required, and your budget.

Run projects smoothly with stakeholder mapping

Neglecting stakeholder management can lead to obstacles and setbacks down the road, hence why stakeholder mapping should be an essential tool under the belt of any project manager.

Project success hinges on engaging and collaborating with stakeholders from different backgrounds.

Understanding their motives and sorting them into individual groups with the help of the power/interest matrix and stakeholder maps can go a long way and ensure your work is headed in the right direction.

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