The Essentials of Stakeholder Management

Evelyn Tian
Although product people are supposed to work with products, guess what?

Reality tells us product people work with people. 

Hence stakeholder management skills become critical for product people, whether you are a product owner, or a product manager.

Check out the essentials of stakeholder management.
One of the most frequently asked questions in my product mentoring engagements, or product owner workshops, is about stakeholder management. One of the most discussed topics in either public coaching circles or agile coach mentoring sessions is again about stakeholder management. Stakeholder Management is crucial for the success of any change initiative, any product, any project, and/or organization.

Now let’s focus more on the product side – how does a Product Owner work with stakeholder management? Before that, let’s take a look at values of stakeholder management. Active stakeholder management offers numerous benefits to our product. Some of the key benefits include:

Utilizing all expertises: Although some stakeholders may not be the easiest to work with, they have a lot of expertises that you can benefit from. Their expertises can be crucial to the success of your product.

Increased stakeholder collaboration: When people feel valued and involved, they are more likely to offer their support and collaborate with you. Engaging stakeholders creates a sense of ownership and buy-in, leading to increased commitment, collaboration, and active participation.

Gaining early alignment and conflict resolution: Like it or not, conflicts and disagreements among stakeholders are common, especially when their interests or priorities differ. Effective stakeholder management help minimize disruptions, frustrations, re-work, and maintain positive momentum.

Reduced risks: Stakeholder management allows for active mitigation of risks and conflicts early on. We can anticipate potential challenges, address concerns, and find mutually acceptable solutions. This proactive approach helps minimize the occurrence and reduce risks.

Enhanced decision-making: Stakeholders brings diverse perspectives and insights, which enables a more comprehensive evaluation of options and potential impacts. The input from stakeholders can help lead to more informed and effective decision-making.

Improved success: By actively engaging with stakeholders, their needs, expectations, and concerns can be addressed. Co-creation leads to increased buy-in, which contributes to a higher likelihood of success.

By mastering the art of stakeholder management, we can get twice the result with half the effort. To make a simple list, we can maximize the outcomes, build stronger relationships, integrate all expertises, enhance successes and foster a lot of positivities for our product and organization. Embracing stakeholder management practices can lead to positive outcomes and contribute to the overall success of endeavours.

Steps for Active Stakeholder Management

Step 1: Identify your stakeholders.

The very first step is to identify your stakeholders are. We want to find all relevant stakeholders, and build an understanding of their level of influence, interest, potential impact, importance and the current relationship between you and the specific stakeholder etc.

There are a few possible options to identify your stakeholders. If this is something you have worked with before, you would have a default list to start with. To start from scratch, it is also feasible as well. Start by brainstorming with your team and existing stakeholders to come up with a list of all possible stakeholders.

We can of course reduce the list if needed and/or situation evolves, but it is crucial that we don’t miss any potential stakeholder.

Step 2: Stakeholder Mapping

If your situation is complex, a stakeholder mapping exercise can be helpful. This will help understand the relationship among stakeholders, and to help visualize and understand the stakeholder situation better.

In our Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner (A-CSPO) workshop, we introduce a 4-D stakeholder mapping tool, which is built by Evelyn through decades of experience working with stakeholders in large organizations with complex stakeholder situations.

Step 3: Stakeholder Matrix

Following a stakeholder mapping exercise, a stakeholder matrix would be a nature step moving forward. A typical stakeholder matrix is helpful, where you will land prioritized stakeholders into the four quadrant matrix based on the current situation. The Y-axis is the influence of stakeholder, and the X-axis is the interest of stakeholder.
High influence, interested interested
You must fully engage with these people and make significant efforts to help to deliver their outcomes.

High influence, less interested people
Put enough work in with these people to keep them satisfied, but not so much that they become bored.

Low influence, interested people
Keep them informed and talk to them to ensure no significant issues arise. In addition, these people can often be beneficial to the detail of your work.

Low influence, less interested people
Monitor these people, but do not bore them with excessive communication.

In the situation where your stakeholder situation is complex, our enhanced Stakeholder Matrix can assist you further with a clearer stakeholder view.

Step 4: Prioritize Stakeholders

With all above steps, we have built a solid understanding of complex stakeholder situation, and help prioritize the stakeholders.

We don’t work with all stakeholders in the very same way. So prioritizing stakeholders and how to work with them would be the next key activities. Due to the complexity in a large organization, we want to continuously monitor the situation and make updates as needed.

The logic of prioritizing stakeholders is quite similar to any other types of prioritization, for instance, evaluate what factors to use for stakeholder prioritization, and understand relationship among different factors.

With all above building solid understanding of stakeholder situation, we start to build a stakeholder engagement plan that outlines how you will involve and communicate with stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle. It should include strategies for regular updates, feedback mechanisms, and opportunities for stakeholder involvement.


After above 4 steps, we are ready to analyze further stakeholder needs, and develop active stakeholder engagement plan.

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To advance further to stakeholder management tools, techniques and tips, Join our A-CSPO and CSP-PO where you will get to learn progressively hands-on tools and tips to work with stakeholders.
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