Dec 20, 2019, Consulting, Design

The Why and How of Stakeholders Mapping

Ewa Zielina UX Designer
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In most cases, if you ask your client about the most important factor of his product’s success you will get the answer – “users”. And let’s be honest, this is a pretty good answer. More and more often the owners of a product are aware of the fact that they have to take under consideration the thoughts, needs and whims of their targeted users.

That comes down to the fact that almost every decision regarding the product’s final shape is based on USERS. Those can be real, selected, examined users. Those can also be just figures written down as user personas. Anyway – we know who they are, what they want and how to get it to them. Sounds good so far. But aren’t we missing something?

Important people in your product’s life

To be more precise – not something, but someone.  You are aware that the product is never created in a vacuum. It may sound cheesy but yes, even in product design, it is important to make everyone around happy (at least a bit). It means that although you should always focus on your end-users as prior, you should also take care of other relations. Those are:

  • Relations within your project team (every person who touches that project)
  • Relations with your clients (this one is obvious, isn’t it?)
  • Relations with investors (every person or company that is paying for your creation)
  • Relations with customers (every person who should consider interacting with your product)
  • Relations with competition (every person that will want to have the advantage of your product)
  • Relations on the product’s market (every person who enters the market that your product is hitting)

Yes, there is a lot to handle. Fortunately, there is a tool that helps lost souls in maneuvering between those listed above with grace.

Stakeholders mapping

To start with, let’s define who a stakeholder really is. It is a person who shares an interest or influence (or both) in your product. The level of engagement will also be important at some stage. But first, you have to realize who they are. There is an owner, a founder, a CEO, a designer, a researcher, a developer, a… whoever there might be. And every single one of them somehow has an impact on your product. Go bigger. Think about everything that might have an influence on it. Now match those things with people who stand behind them. Now – how do they affect your work? Or, on the contrary, do they even care? 

That’s where stakeholders mapping comes to help. Brainstorm everyone (and everything) that might impact your product. Do it with your whole team (remember, never go through a UX path alone!). Put it on the board. Yes, you can find Jim from your backend team there (I dare you to say that developers do not influence product) but also your investor’s lawyer (who explains what restrictions you have to follow). Group. Match. Link. Confront. Just get more comfortable with the knowledge of some Stakeholders existing there. 

The Who and What

Everyone you listed on board is somehow interested in your product. That means that they also somehow influence your product. Think about HOW they do it. Is it direct or not? Is it continuous or just temporary? If you managed to group your stakeholders, it would be easier to define them with some qualities. Now choose the most important qualities and make a scale of them. Then make another scale determining the impact. Place your groups on the matrix. And… that’s kind of it.

It all comes down to the question – who should I care about the most and how do I keep others satisfied? We cannot help you with the second part of this question, but at least now you know how to distribute your energy wisely. The matrix shows clearly that you should focus more on people that you defined as having the most important quality for your project and also the most impactful. The ones with weaker qualities and less impact you can now monitor. The only thing left now is to decide how you want to approach the other two extremes (strong quality-less impact/weaker quality-more impact). Keep them informed? Satisfied? Participating? Whatever fits you. But keep in mind – roles shift. Go back to your matrix every time you feel like a new player enters the game.

The Why and How

Everything mentioned above should make you think about the context of your product development process. For us, it is important to design responsibly and effectively, and we believe that being aware of relations around the product gives us an advantage from the start. Of course, this one does not cover the whole “context of product design” theme. Knowing who works for your project’s success or failure is a pretty good start. You may not know how to save the world, but at least you will know who you should ask for help here.

That is why stakeholders mapping canvas accompanies us from the beginning of most of our products. We decided to share our template with you, so you can try yourself what difference it makes. 

Adjust it to your requirements, just as we do. Go local (internal) or more global (external) depending on your product’s character. Customize it with more definitions if needed. 

And if you have any concerns or questions – hit us with an email so we can talk it through ?

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