Stakeholder Map

Use this tool when:

  • You want to understand the people and organizations around you that can make or break your project.
  • You want to explore stakeholder characteristics and find out how best to influence them.
  • You want to identify potential supports and blockers for your project


Time± 45 minutes
Difficulty3 / 5
People1 - 5
AuthorErik van der Pluijm
License CC BY SA 4.0

What is it and when should I use it?

The Stakeholder Map gives insight in the various stakeholders (partners, investors, …) that need to be kept in mind while developing the startup or project.

‘Stakeholders’ are defined here as decision makers that influence your startup journey, that have a stake in the outcome. A stakeholder could be your managing director in a company, or your boss, but it could also be a key partner or an investor. Each of these stakeholders has their own agenda. They want different things. Knowing what their agenda is and how you are best able to help further it is key to the success of your startup.

It’s important to understand that there are many different ways to map your stakeholders. To get the most out of your stakeholder map, make sure you understand what you want to achieve with it. Understanding this will inform the questions you would like to answer with your stakeholder map.

  • Understand the people that can make or break your project
  • Explore their characteristics and find out how to influence them
  • Explore and navigate potential blockers and supports

This tool is a combination of three views that are often used to map stakeholders:

  • Internal - external view, how ‘far’ are they away from you? Useful to find out who you can talk to or influence (radar view)
  • Stakeholder matrix with axes ‘power vs interest’ (quadrants)
  • Stakeholder matrix with axes ‘support vs influence’ (quadrants)

The two stakeholder matrices can be seen as the same one, where the axes are swapped; ‘support’ can be equated with a form of ‘interest’, and ‘power’ can be equated with ‘influence’. If you look at it like that, the quadrant view can be superimposed over the radar view.

Tip! The downloads section also has the Stakeholder Matrix as a download as an alternative, simpler view.

Tool Overview

Tool Overview

  1. Team The people that are involved in the project directly.

  2. Internal People inside your own organisation that are indirectly involved in the project.

  3. External People outside the organisation or other organisations that are indirectly involved in the project.

  4. Public People or organizations that are aware of this project and operate in the public domain.

  5. Low Interest, Low Power This slice of the diagram houses stakeholders that are not very interested in the project, and don’t have a lot of influence or power over it.

  6. High Interest, Low Power In this slice, place stakeholders that have a vested interest in the project but don’t have a lot of direct influence or power over it.

  7. Low Interest, High Power In this slice, place stakeholders that don’t have a large interest in the project, but could potentially have a lot of power or influence over it.

  8. High Interest, High Power In this slice, place stakeholders that have a large interest in the project, and also have a lot of direct or indirect power or influence over it.


1 Who?

With your team, come up with the different stakeholders for your project. You can either do this by having everyone write stakeholders on sticky notes by themselves or by comparing them.

Think about the following roles stakeholders can have for your project:

  • Users: Customers or clients using the end product or service
  • Buyers: Stakeholders deciding to buy your product or service (may be different from Users!)
  • Budget-holders: Stakeholders who govern spending for your product or service (may be different from buyers!)
  • Gatekeepers that prevent you from getting access to other stakeholders
  • Influencers: key people other stakeholders listen to already

But also:

  • Investors or financiers (in the case of startups)
  • Your team
  • Internal stakeholders such as direct management
  • Internal executive level stakeholders and ‘sponsors’
  • ...

Some of these might not be obvious. Why is a ‘user’ different from a ‘budget-holder’? Well, if you’re developing a simple business-to-consumer app, the same person may hold both roles. The same person decides to purchase the app, pays for it, and then uses it. But for more complex situations, usually for B2B propositions, that’s not the case. A manager might recommend buying your product to their manager, who then has to go to procurement to secure the funds, so that the manager’s team member can finally use the product. All these stakeholders need to be convinced that agreeing is a good idea, and they all decide for their own reasons.

Once you’re ready, have team members stick the stakeholders on the canvas one by one. We’ll discuss the various stakeholders in the next step, but make sure you have the following aspects noted down for each stakeholder

  • Name
  • Company / Organisation
  • Role in their organisation
  • Role(s) for this project (see above)

Tip! Use different color sticky notes for different types of stakeholders, e.g. internal vs external, different business units, hierarchy levels, or different roles. The key in color coding is to choose a coding that you expect will bring a valuable visual grouping to the map that you can use later to quickly see patterns.

Stakeholders on the Stakeholder Map

2 What? How? Why?

For each stakeholder, try to find two reasons for them to support the startup, and two reasons to be against it. Write these on two different color sticky notes(suggestion: green for positive, red for negative) and stick them next to the appropriate name. Then, write one sticky note with their own immediate goal (color suggestion: yellow) and stick it at the end.

The reasons they might have to support the product or service or not can be various. Think of the following:

  • Financial reasons (budget) – either to create opportunities or to reduce cost
  • Efficiency reasons
  • Reasons of status (maybe they can show off with a shiny product)
  • Risk avoidance
  • To keep their personnel happy
  • Alignment with company strategy and vision
  • Alignment with personal ambitions
  • ...

If you don’t know exactly what a stakeholder’s agenda is, that is fine - you can make an educated guess now, as long as you are absolutely committed to find out the truth. Using the quadrants, it makes sense to focus on your relationships with the top-right high-influence, high-interest stakeholders first, and then work your way through the rest.

Use the Persona Canvas to map out the most important stakeholders and gather information on how they make their decisions, what their ambitions are, etc. These personas can be developed over time and are a great source of information. (Remember to be discreet and ethical in what you research and what information you store on your stakeholders!)

Figure out how you might best communicate with the stakeholders. A useful way to categorise the communication strategies you might have with your stakeholders is the following:

  • Inform - inform stakeholders in a one-way communication
  • Consult - reach out to stakeholders to get specific feedback only when required
  • Involve - get regular feedback from stakeholders and proactively inform them about decisions
  • Collaborate - develop partnerships with stakeholders and decide together
  • Empower - delegate final decision making to stakeholders

The example below gives a starting point on what might be a good strategy to communicate with stakeholders in different quadrants in your stakeholder map, but of course you are completely free to decide otherwise.

Engagement strategies on the Stakeholder Map

3 Connect the dots

Think of your stakeholder map as a network. Unlocking the network aspect can give you a leg up on your innovation journey.

To do that, try to figure out how the stakeholders work together. Ask questions such as:

  • Which stakeholders are linked together?
  • Who influences whom?
  • Who share similar interests and agendas?
  • Who might oppose each other?
  • What are the key moments they make decisions?
  • How can you get more information on how they make these decisions?

Using color coding and linking the stakeholders together in your map will help you see the pattern. Simply connect the sticky notes with a line or use pins and strings like a 1960s super villain in a Bond movie.

The Stakeholder Map as a network

Once you have mapped out the different connections, it might make sense to also map out what is being communicated over these connections. What is the sentiment? A nice way to do this is to use emojis. In the example below they are printed, but you can easily draw them on sticky notes.

Visualising the connections between stakeholders

The example shown here immediately gives more insight. It depicts the stakeholder map for a startup that is in trouble. Although internally everything seems fine (as can be gauged from the emojis labeling the connections within the team and the connection to the CEO) the users are not happy. Somehow they fail to communicate the full force of that to the team, but they apparently do have a link to the media, and love to post negative comments. This gives the investor the impression that the platform is on fire, which impacts her relationship with the CEO. The CEO is forced to make apologetic statements to the press, which doesn’t help.

This picture is a snapshot of the situation, and can be used to come up with ideas to ‘fix’ it. What if you could create a direct link between the team and the media and use positive PR? What if you could make the users much more happy? What if you could convince the investor that all is well? What if you could give users more influence over the product (i.e. move them more to the right in the diagram)?

This simple example shows the power of a networked stakeholder map.

4 Next Steps

In order to really understand your stakeholders and share that understanding within a team, a great thing to do is to create personas [LINK] for your key stakeholders.

Another thing you might do with your stakeholder map is to organize it in the form of a timeline or sequence, where you figure out how you can ‘hop’ from one stakeholder to the next in order to win them over to your idea. On the timeline you can also plot key moments that will influence your stakeholders that you can see coming. For example, if you know your investor wants to see the quarterly results, and they are not positive, you can see that coming and possibly preempt negative fallout by communicating about it early.

Understand that your stakeholder map is in flux, over time stakeholders and their points of view change. Keep revisiting it to figure out what the most likely scenarios will be, especially before important decisions.

Figure out which stakeholders to inform, consult, involve, collaborate with, or empower, and set up a communication strategy that achieves that.