I tend to use the terms ‘customer’ and ‘user’ interchangeably to describe the same group of people. Very often it depends on the context of the situation and the people I’m working with – but sometimes it can lead to confusion.
For example, is the customer someone who uses the service, or are they just the person who pays for it or is it a combination of both? And what about the people who help to deliver the service or the people who don’t even engage with the service, but in-directly benefit from it or influence it?
Sometimes the confusion around terminology can cause conflict in teams when people are talking about different groups of stakeholders and attributing levels of importance to their needs that other’s in the wider team may not feel are justified.
Step forward the stakeholder map!
One way to help manage this situation is to create a stakeholder map that identifies and classifies all the different groups of people with a relationship to the thing you are doing. Not only is this a great way to align the team, it is also a vital part of the pre-dominantly people orientated service design process.
The stakeholder mapping process
The process consists of five key activities:
It starts by identifying different groups of stakeholders. This can be done individually or in groups using a brainstorming exercise to map out the key steps of the customer journey and identifying the people using, influencing, benefiting or delivering the service at each stage.
Classifying stakeholder groups helps to provide a common understanding of who’s who and how they impact or are impacted by the service. So when someone asks ‘who are our users?’, everyone on the team can respond with common terminology and a consistent description of the role they play.
Once an initial collection of stakeholder groups are identified and understood, they need to be prioritised in terms of engagement. Which stakeholders do you need to engage with as a priority and why? Which groups can you engage with at a later date and are there any groups of stakeholders that you just need to be aware of?
All this hard work to map out your stakeholders is no use if you fail to communicate with your, er stakeholders! Use your mapping to create engagement strategies, so that the right people are involved in the design and delivery of the service at the right time.
As you engage with different stakeholders and progress through the design and delivery of your service, you’ll be growing your contextual understanding; so make sure you spend time refining your stakeholder map to keep it up-to-date and useful.
When to get started
A stakeholder mapping exercise should be one of the first things you do on any new project or initiative, as it sets the scene for all the work that follows. Services in particular are people-orientated and without a good understanding of the people involved, you’ll struggle to provide a winning experience or deliver on the original purpose.
If you do find yourself in a situation where a useful and accessible stakeholder mapping doesn’t exist, then why not invest the time to create one? It won’t take long and you’ll find your stakeholders will thank you for it!