When working as a team on multiple different products with many stakeholders, it proved helpful for us to sometimes reflect on the products and stakeholders. The classical Stakeholder Matrix was a bit too rigid for this purpose. Introducing: the Stakeholder Heatmap. In the course of this article we provide you with the Miro template.

We first create a virtual whiteboard to fill the heatmap. The process works in four steps:

  1. Collection: We braindump all products with their respective stakeholders into the whiteboard.
  2. Placement: We put those clusters into the Stakeholder Heatmap: Y axis: Involvement/ intrinsic motivation of stakeholders. X axis: Value (company-wide).
  3. Create Actions: Then we use the different areas in the heatmap to identify and create possible actions for the Product Owner.
  4. Getting to Done: When a specific release has been finalized, we put it into the „Done“ part of the whiteboard. This works for us because we label our epics with product versions and used those epics in the Stakeholder Heatmap.

In the end we are also getting a good overview of how many interactions we deal with on a day-to-day basis – which can prove helpful for further prioritization acts. We use this especially for reporting and data product management but it can be used also in other cases with many stakeholders.

First Step: Collection

At first, we give ourselves a few minutes to braindump all products and their respective stakeholders into the first area of the board. Within a typical Scrum setup, this could be done by the Product Owner herself or also by the whole team. Depending on the needed information it might also prove helpful to include the specific department or a cooperation partner within this little cluster of virtual sticky notes.

To make things easier for us, we are usually working with specific versions of our products, instead of only using the product names themselves.

Goal: Gather small clusters of people & meta information around specific products.

Second Step: Placement within the Stakeholder Heatmap

Now the two axes come into play.

First, we align on the axis „Involvement (Intrinsic by Stakeholder)“ how much the stakeholder group is involved. This is done by gut feeling and our general impression. Are they intrinsically motivated? Was it more of an idea at some point but it gained no traction? Have priorities shifted from the stakeholders in the recent past? Depending on our impression, we then rank the cluster vertically from lowest to highest.

Now the Product Owner evaluates the value of the solution on the axis „Value (company-wide)„, either for the company or against all stakeholders. This will move the stakeholder cluster horizontally.

None of this is based on science but it is helpful to become aware which tasks are really pressing right now within a dynamic environment. Think Eisenhower Matrix.

Goal: Put all clusters onto the Stakeholder Heatmap and check if any new learnings come out of this.

Third step: Creating Actions

After moving all clusters of stakeholders and their product releases into the heatmap, we check for the specific areas. Those are areas we came up with when working within our environment. These are just suggestions, change it to whatever you might need.

There are four areas, marked with dashed lines.

  • Keep closely up-to-date: This is the leftmost lane and got its inspiration from the classical Stakeholder Matrix. Whoever we find in this section we are making sure to keep in the loop. It might be that some management is within this area or some stakeholders who once got an idea that never materialized.
  • Upcoming: Those are things with high company-wide value; but right now the stakeholders are forming their ideas. Usually items from this area would move upwards. It is good to track this here though, to check if the team can provide any clarifications or support in scope
  • Make-or-stop decision area: This is an interesting area. It could be that something is of high value but when looking back at the last couple of weeks, we realize that we cannot get the stakeholder to contact us. Sometimes priorities shift, sometimes it needs change. As a result, here we try to keep a close look on specific products or solutions and decide if we will prioritize this lower.
  • Stakeholder Round Table Appointment: Here is the „hot“ area within the heatmap. Items here have high company-wide value and stakeholders are motivated to work with us. Not many items go into the top right-hand corner. Usually, in our case, they land in the middle. Nonetheless, we check for each and every stakeholder cluster if we have some kind of coordination appointment or touch point setup. May it be a Daily or something else. Sometimes it is enough to invite them to the Review, but the Review can explode with content if you have worked on several products with several stakeholder groups within the sprint. So a separate meetings are sometimes a good idea.

Goal: Identify which stakeholders are handled well already and where we need to improve.

Fourth Step: Getting to Done

In the end, what counts is not to start a whole lot of things at once but to finish. Better done than perfect. We might feel a little overwhelmed once we worked through the heatmap. Afterwards though, we have at least an idea of what we should focus on in the future.

If you are in the trenches sometimes the person who yells the loudest also seems the most important one. The Stakeholder Heatmap supports the team by clarifying priorities and therefore enables it to act instead of reacting non-stop.

Goal: Finishing contents. And celebrate that.

Miro template

Here you can find the Stakeholder Heatmap as a Miro board. We have seen it adapted already in other tools like Mural and Stormboard.


Rounding up

For us, this tool proved helpful especially when things are moving fast or many stakeholders seem to approach at the same time. It is good to have something in the drawer already available and have a check-in for 30-40 minutes.

How are you handling product portfolio management and multiple stakeholders? Please tell us in the comments.

This article was first published at inovex.de.

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

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