Stakeholders are people or organizations that are internal or external to the project who have a vested interest in its success. That interest can have a positive or negative impact on the project execution. Therefore, it’s crucial to know your stakeholders.
More than just being able to identify who the stakeholders are in the project, you need to manage them. It’s a big task. How do you know who needs what when communicating with them during the project? That is the beginning of stakeholder management, and it starts with stakeholder mapping.
What Is a Stakeholder Map?
A stakeholder map is a visual, four-quadrant influence-interest matrix used to identify stakeholders and categorize them in terms of their influence and interest in the project.
The y axis determines the level of interest, from highest on the top to lowest on the bottom—meaning how much the stakeholders are impacted by the outcome of the project. The x-axis of the grid measures the stakeholder’s level of influence, or how much can the stakeholder impact the project, from low (left side) to high (right side).
Stakeholders are then plotted on this map depending on how they fall on those two metrics.
A stakeholder map is the first step toward stakeholder management in that it defines the stakeholder’s relationship to the project. It will inform almost every decision a project manager makes in regard to their stakeholders, including the frequency of their meetings and how much information they are given about the project.
The Importance of Stakeholder Mapping
Stakeholder mapping is important because stakeholders are important to the success of a project. There are usually many stakeholders, which means many and varied expectations. Without mapping stakeholders in relation to their influence and interest in the project, you’re going to have a hard time communicating with them and keeping them happy.
But it’s also a two-way street. Having good communications with stakeholders gives project managers much-needed insight into the project, which helps them in innumerable ways. It helps to mitigate risk and discover the stakeholder’s real goals for the project.
In other words, stakeholder mapping is the start of an effective communication plan. Projects cannot succeed if there is little to no communication. The better the communication, the smoother the project will proceed and the easier it will be to understand your stakeholders’ desires.
Stakeholder mapping is also a way to manage expectations. By mapping out your stakeholders, you know how they stand in regard to the project. Therefore, as the project is executed, a project manager can incrementally deal with those expectations, bringing them in line with the project so everyone is happy with the deliverables.
Stakeholder Map Example
To give you an example and the opportunity to create your own stakeholder map, download our stakeholder map template. It provides the outline and all you have to do is add the details. Our stakeholder map template is shown below:
There are four ways to manage your communication with stakeholders: Manage them closely, keep them satisfied, keep them informed or simply monitor them.
- If your stakeholder has a high level of influence in the project but not as much interest, they should be kept satisfied, which means they need regular updates and their feedback is important.
- A stakeholder with both a high level of influence and interest needs to be managed closely. That means meeting with them more than the group that is in the “keep satisfied” category, and their feedback is also critical to any decision-making.
- Those who are lower in influence and higher in interest tend to be your customer base. They need updates on progress, too, but not with the frequency of the “manage closely” and “keep satisfied” groups. Those who are low on both influence and interest need monitoring, of course, but probably only need to be informed of big steps in the project.
How to Create a Stakeholder Map
When you’re ready to make your stakeholder map and start the stakeholder mapping process, you’ll want to follow these four steps:
1. Identify Stakeholders
There can be many stakeholders in a project. The list you come up with will depend on your organization, the impact of the project and its objectives. That means you might have to revise the list throughout the course of the project.
2. Analyze Stakeholders
The next step asks for some analysis. This helps you figure out how relevant they are to the project, as well as what perspective they bring. To do this, define what type of stakeholder they are, how much they might contribute to the project and their legitimacy in so doing. Are they willing to engage? How much influence and involvement in the project do they have?
Related: Stakeholder Analysis Template
3. Map Stakeholders
This is when you create your box and divide it into four, with the y-axis measuring the level of influence from low (bottom) to high (top). On the x-axis, you map the level of interest, low (left) to high (right). Using your list of stakeholders and the analysis you made, plot them according to the two axes.
4. Prioritize Stakeholders
Now that you’ve listed, analyzed and plotted your stakeholders on the map, you can begin to devise a plan on how you’ll engage with the stakeholders over the course of the project. Depending on where they land on the map, you will either manage them closely to just monitor them. This is the start of your stakeholder communication plan and overall stakeholder management.
Best Practices When Stakeholder Mapping
It helps if you can get as much information on all your stakeholders as possible. You want to know who they are and how they like to communicate. Some might just ask you to text them updates, others want in-person presentations and some might prefer a phone call. Know the method of communication they want and determine a frequency that is right for them.
Another aspect of your stakeholder mapping is understanding the cultural or linguistic diversity among them. If they’re don’t speak your native language, it will require you to adjust your messaging. It’s important to be inclusive and know what is right for one stakeholder might be wrong for another.
The content of your communications must be clear. You want to avoid jargon and simply present the facts. Be transparent when you’re communicating, and always note what is certain and what is not. Be open to your stakeholders’ feedback and know how they can impact your decisions.
Be Open and Honest
Never hold back on information, especially bad news. The sooner you can get it out in the open, the faster you’ll be able to address stakeholder expectations and manage whatever concerns they might have.
Finally, keep the lines of communication open. Stay in touch with your stakeholders, but also give them a channel by which they can reach you if necessary. When they do, listen to what they have to say, interact with them, ask your own questions. Communication is an exchange of information.
How ProjectManager Helps You Manage Stakeholders
ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that fosters real-time communications with reports that capture progress as it happens to help keep everyone involved in the project informed. Our features help you keep your stakeholders updated easily.
Stakeholders want to know how you’re going to deliver the project. Project managers work hard to build a viable schedule on our online Gantt chart, which organizes tasks, manages dependencies and sets milestones. The schedule can be shared with stakeholders to keep them in the loop.
Provide Stakeholders with Real-time Data
Once they know your plan, they’re going to want to see how it is progressing during execution. You can share the real-time dashboard, which shows a high-level view of project metrics such as progress on tasks, time left on work, costs and more.
Give Stakeholders Project Details When Required
For a more in-depth look at progress and performance, we have one-click reporting. Generate status reports, project costs and much more with just a keystroke. Then print or share the report with stakeholders, and all reports can be filtered to show just the data they’re interested in.
ProjectManager is an award-winning tool that organizes tasks, teams and stakeholders. You get features to keep teams collaborating and their workload balanced for greater productivity. Stakeholders can instantly see their progress and stay informed at a high-level or with greater detail. Satisfy your stakeholders by planning, monitoring and reporting better today by taking this free 30-day trial.