Deconstructing Stakeholder Maps
What is a stakeholder map?
Stakeholder maps are an empathetic tool that enables Service Designers to gain valuable insights into how a customer feels throughout an entire service experience. As a ‘record of events’, stakeholder maps capture the interactions a customer has at different touchpoints of a service and will help break down the complexity of everyday interactions.
Stakeholder maps also draw attention to the quality of a service (QOS), which is powerful for a business’ analysis of their competitiveness against other brands or alternative services within a market. For example, within the education system, a parent’s interaction with teachers or the school principal forms part of the overall experience and a stakeholder map can assist the school identify how to improve the interaction.
The value of a stakeholder map for any organisation includes:
- Providing a holistic view of key stakeholders and customer relationships
- Highlighting communication and contact between the design of a service and its stakeholders
- Identifying gaps in knowledge and resistance within the service experience
- Creating opportunities to work with key people in the business to improve the overall service
- Assisting the creation of comprehensive solutions by involving stakeholders into the service solution
What does a stakeholder map look like?
Stakeholder maps can contain anywhere between one to four layers, with each layer denoting a different level of influence over a service experience (known as the ‘circle of influence’):
Stakeholders in the outer layers of a stakeholder map hold less power and influence and are generally the interested parties. In the middle layers of a stakeholder map, the represented stakeholders hold moderate power and are generally influenced by the service outcome. These people can include the end users.
Stakeholders in the third or closest layer are sponsors, executives, or subject matter experts (SMEs) who interact closely with a product or service and can directly affect its outcome.
How to create a stakeholder map
In the initial stage of stakeholder mapping, begin by identifying anyone who could affect, influence, or be interested in the outcome of service. Common examples of stakeholders include employees, managers, contractors, partners, suppliers, and vendors. Key considerations for the ‘definition’ stage of a stakeholder map are:
- Identify key knowledge gaps in a service, and what needs to be uncovered
- Create a stockist of key resources both internally and externally
- Seek clients or customers to answer questions that are unknown
- Map out who is currently involved in a service and start to connect the relationship between different players
- Craft an organisational chart that visualises and conceptualises a client or customer’s stakeholders
- Highlight past projects that may relate to the outcome of this project if this client is a repeat customer
The saying that “not all stakeholders are created the same” rings true in the second phase of creating a stakeholder map. This step is concerned with determining the influence and power of each stakeholder.
The influence of a stakeholder can be categorised as:
- A decision-maker
- Behind the scenes (behind the line of visibility)
- An interested party
Another question Service Designers should ask through this phase is, “What and who do these stakeholders directly influence?”
Continuing the example of a school, a key decision maker may include the Student Council that is actively engaged in the school’s ecosystem. The Student Council body has power and influence over some decisions; but an interested party may be the local council or community who keep the school’s activities on their radar but are not directly affected by any of its decisions.
Planning a stakeholder map is often the longest but most important step. In this phase, your role is to determine what needs to be discovered about the key stakeholders and players of a service.
Dependent on the information available about a service experience and how different stakeholders interact, the amount of time spent conducting research on stakeholders will come in the form of:
- One-on-one interviews
- Contextual inquiries
- Research design kits
- Service safaris
After defining, analysing, and planning how each stakeholder interacts and fits into a service, the final step of creating a stakeholder map involves physically engaging with stakeholders. This step is aimed at uncovering gaps in a service and addressing any critical problems that exist within that service.
Some things to keep in mind include:
- What are the objectives or drivers of different stakeholders in a service?
- Who has power and high invested interest in the direct outcome of a service experience?
- Are there any ‘silent players’ who don’t necessarily have a presence but could strongly affect a service?
- What are the communication styles and mediums that these stakeholders like being contacted in?
- How do you frame your messaging to these stakeholders to ensure successful collaboration but to also solve a problem for customers?
The best method to conduct a stakeholder map is through collaboration. While working with a team, you can conduct a workshop to construct a stakeholder map. In this session, it’s vital to have a lead to navigate and direct the group in a way that enables the most efficient and effective capture of information.
Identify a list of items that need to be re-addressed at a later stage, and collect information in clusters. This stakeholder workshop should involve plenty of post-its and participants should be encouraged to draw lines of connections, highlight pain points, and actively voice different challenges throughout the process.