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Iryna Viter

Stakeholder Mapping 101: Navigating the Stakeholder Web

Want to get stakeholder mapping right before the project hits the road? Here's our ultimate guide on how to map stakeholders.

If you've ever ventured into the world of stakeholder management, you're likely no stranger to its inherent complexity.

Identifying all the stakeholders is a challenge in itself, but it is the management, the stakeholder engagement strategy that might really put your project management skills to the test.

How do you determine the specific needs of each stakeholder when it comes to project communication? How do you predict the dynamics between them and the ways it could change along the way?

In this article, we will answer all of those questions and give you essential stakeholder mapping tools so you can ensure a successful project life cycle.

What is stakeholder mapping?

Stakeholder mapping is a strategic process, step, or exercise companies take to map out everyone who has an impact on the project, product, company, or any other entity being built. While shareholders own a certain part of the business, financially, and have a clear interest in its success, they might not be as involved and impactful as stakeholders. The latter always have a much more granular function.

Stakeholders can be the people working on the project, the customers giving feedback and using the product, or other third parties if there are some dependencies tying them to the process.

To illustrate, you might have an app in a marketplace. In this scenario, it is not only the people building and using the app that are stakeholders, but also everyone behind the marketplace as it determines just how much exposure the app gets in the first place.

Mapping out all of your stakeholders means bringing more clarity and visibility into the picture, and uncovering blind spots and vulnerabilities on your way to a reliable growth roadmap. Understanding all of your stakeholders and the role they have to play is crucial for successful outcomes.

A stakeholder map example

Stakeholder maps vary here and there, but they are all after one goal: to show you who bears what impact and what that means for your project.

There are generally several groups each stakeholder map will include:

  • Internal stakeholders. Anyone working internally on the project, whether we're talking employees, advisors, or even the board of directors.
  • External stakeholders. People who are not directly involved with the company but have some influence on its success, especially if they mean dependencies. Let's consider a simple example here. If you're running a supermarket, an external stakeholder could be the farmer supplying fresh produce. They are not part of your supermarket but they are a supplier and if they are late with their part of the deal, that will always impact your sales.
  • Key stakeholders. This criteria means to help you group stakeholders based on the level of influence they have. How critical is it? Is it big enough for you to give them a front-row seat in all matters and maintain regular contact?
stakeholder engagement map

The importance of stakeholder mapping

Before anything else, stakeholder mapping is a sure way to avoid risks when your project is already in progress. But in the long run, it will also help you save time, be more efficient, and stand out in the market.

Wondering how?

  • It helps you identify key players. It's like playing chess: you need to know who has what kind of reach and what moves you need to expect from them. You will identify the most and least interested parties as well as the cards they have in their hands. Consider this: if you're building a product and the head of development leaves, would that kick in the domino effect?
  • Improves resource allocation. Knowing what level of influence each stakeholder has helps you assign resources where they are needed most. You will identify the critical areas that need constant support and monitoring for successful project delivery. For example, if you're building a new integration, your developers are one of the most critical stakeholder groups. If they are understaffed, can't be efficient for whatever reason, or lack visibility or communication — the project might easily get derailed.
  • You can make stakeholder engagement more efficient. Stakeholder analysis will help you see who needs more insights into the project so you can tailor communication plans accordingly. Especially if you need to keep the stakeholders aligned with each other. For example, if you have two teams with dependencies between each other, you can arrange for regular check-ins between them so nothing slips through the cracks.
  • Stakeholder mapping process promotes transparency and accountability. Transparency is key for building trust and accountability. Your internal and external stakeholders will greatly benefit from having the right information at their fingertips at all times.
  • Mapping out project stakeholders keeps risks away. All stakeholders will come into the picture bearing certain expectations, opinions, and objections. Knowing how to handle those proactively helps you mitigate risks and predict potential threats.

When a stakeholder map can help

A stakeholder map is an invaluable tool if you're working in the professional services business and have multiple projects running at the same time. It will make your what-if scenarios a lot more accurate and be one of your primary resource management guides.

Here are some of the cases where it will come in handy.

Allocating resources

Suppose you have a new project and need to start by allocating your resources. Stakeholder mapping will not only help identify the resources you already have, but will also point you in the direction of the key resources you're missing.

Here you might want to use one of the most common project management charts, the RACI chart, so you both label AND define your resources. In short, this chart will help you identify the Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed stakeholders in the picture.

Prioritizing resources

Efficient stakeholder management is impossible without priority setting. It's clear now that not all stakeholder groups carry the same value for the success of your project. Using reliable stakeholder management strategies will help you set priorities right from the start.

More often than not, resource managers need to get creative and do less with more. Achieve stellar project outcomes while also missing a few resources here and there. Stakeholder mapping helps you prioritize stakeholders that are absolutely vital for your projects to succeed and points at the areas where you can come up with a temporary solution.

Maximizing resource utilization

Flexible working roles are one of the hottest project management trends right now. It means that this faith in full-time employment is starting to fade away both for employers and employees. There's more interest in flexibility, temporary contracts, and creative solutions when it comes to managing your workforce.

Through the lens of stakeholder mapping, this means that you need to have a tight grip on all your resources, whether they are permanent or temporary — their shifts, focus, priorities, etc. All of that is crucial if you want to make the most out of your resources and get your resource utilization to an all-time high. Mapping stakeholders will help you get there faster.

Solving resourcing clashes

It's not uncommon to overbook or double-book a stakeholder with high influence levels on the project. Let's say you have that Swiss knife that can solve any problem, close any gap, and do even the most complex job. It's great to have people like that on your team but it's also fairly easy to lose track of just how much workload you're putting on their plate, which can backfire when you least expect it.

When you map stakeholders and identify the ones who are critical to the project success, you will also identify your vulnerabilities in case a potential resourcing clash happens during the project.

How to create a stakeholder map

The number of steps that go into creating a stakeholder map are usually determined by the level of detail you want to see in it. The more complex projects might require more intricate maps but here is where you will always need to start.

Identify stakeholders

It's easiest if you start off by simply listing out all the relevant stakeholders that need attention. Keep in mind that this stakeholder list might change as your project progresses, some stakeholders might gain more value along the journey, while others might lose it. But you will usually be able to predict this ahead of time if you run a thorough analysis of the stakeholders you're mapping out.

Analyze stakeholders

What does each stakeholder bring to the table? You need to define the role they play as well as the positive or negative impact they could have on the project.

The effective management of your resources, ensuring they are engaged, motivated, and supported, can be challenging without a clear understanding of their roles and influence. Knowing your people will also make it easier to manage and meet stakeholder expectations.

Map them out

Once you're done characterizing your potential stakeholders, it's time to visulize the map. In most cases, you'll be working with a grid of four blocks placed on an 'influence' axis. The higher the influence the more communication and engagement strategies you will need to apply when handling those stakeholders.

stakeholder analysis matrix

Assign priority

With your stakeholders listed, analyzed, and mapped out, it's time to craft your stakeholder engagement plan. Based on their positions on the map, you'll determine whether to maintain close management or simply keep tabs. This marks the beginning of your stakeholder communication strategy and your comprehensive stakeholder management approach for the project.

Final thoughts

Stakeholder management goes hand in hand with resource management. For one thing, most of your stakeholders are actually going to be your resources on the project. Oftentimes, the most influential stakeholders are not going to be the investors or the clients funding the project, but the key teams working on it.

With that in mind, the importance of this bond between stakeholder mapping and effective resource management cannot be overstated. In a contemporary project landscape where success hinges upon the efficient utilization of human capital, stakeholder mapping is the compass that will guide you toward optimal resource management. By leveraging the insights gained from stakeholder mapping, project managers can ensure that the project's most valuable resources – the talented individuals who breathe life into the project – are effectively harnessed.

To get an easy start with your resources, book a free demo with Runn today!

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