Guide to Stakeholder Mapping: Definition, Tools and Matrix

by Henri Gisclard-Biondi, on 04/03/2021
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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 categorise stakeholders into meaningful groups.

Stakeholders and stakeholder mapping explained

What are stakeholders in project management?

Project stakeholders are people or organisations affected 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.

What are the different types of stakeholders?

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

Internal stakeholders

This group includes the project team as well as general management at your company. They are all the actors within your organisation 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, who is the person whom the project was launched by 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 organisation, who 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: they should be included in the project as stakeholders, insofar as they are ultimately the ones your project deliverables are aimed at. Whether or not the result of your project suits their needs will determine its success.
  • Suppliers: they 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: law-makers wield considerable power over any project, as it must abide by standards or obtain specific approval.
  • Influencers and action groups: 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 that could have an interest in seeing your project fail or succeed, as well as anyone affected by the activities of your business.

What is stakeholder mapping?

A simple definition of stakeholder mapping is the process of drawing a visual representation of the various people involved in or affected by the project. This visual tool should provide a clear picture of who 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
  • Organised into groups based on the nature, common interests and level of influence of the various stakeholders

Why you should use stakeholder mapping

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

How to create a stakeholder map in 3 steps

1. Identify the stakeholders

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

Leaders

The project sponsor can be placed at the top of this category. It regroups all the people and organisations whose decisions will determine the project lifecycle. They are directly involved in the project and wield considerable mediatic, technical or organisational influence.

Contributors

List the people without whom your project cannot reach its objectives. These include the project manager and their team, relevant business departments, but also external stakeholders such as suppliers, clients and officials who provide authorisations 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 show more interest later on. These stakeholders could take a stand for or against your project over the course of its development.

2. Analyse the relevant stakeholders with 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?
  • 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.

Satisfy, engage, inform or monitor stakeholders

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

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

3. Take appropriate action

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 legitimacy, resources or professional network of stakeholders.

Stakeholder Profile Recommended Actions

High Power

High Interest

ENGAGE
  • Hold consultations with the stakeholder
  • 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

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 groups with the help of the power/interest matrix and stakeholder maps can go a long way and ensure your project is headed in the right direction.