Welcome to the Zoo
What is a stakeholder map? Who’s on it, and why?
What it’s not, as my colleague Jon Lavietes said in introducing the latest ASAP Webinar, “Who’s Who in Your Zoo? Stakeholder Mapping Made Easy,” is “a glorified org chart. If it were that simple, we wouldn’t be having a webinar on it!”
One of the goals of this webinar was to make the exercise of stakeholder mapping easier, especially for alliance professionals who might be grappling with it for the first time. To aid in that endeavor, Lavietes moderated a panel of four stellar partnering pros who have all had experience in creating stakeholder maps and who understand not only how they’re constructed but what their purpose should be. (The webinar grew out of Lavietes’s Strategic Alliance Quarterly article “All Over the Map,” Q1 2023.)
Who Gets to Decide?
“Companies don’t partner; people do,” said Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, founding principal at Phoenix Consulting Group. Echoing Lavietes, she said a good stakeholder map is far more than a contact list.
“It’s really made up of the people who work together, who collaborate, who innovate, who make decisions together. That’s where the stakeholder mapping comes in: identifying those people, such that you have comparable decision-making authorities so people know who makes what decisions or calls.”
Like Watenpaugh, David Hickman, CSAP, alliance and business development executive at KPMG, is an ASAP veteran of more than two decades.
Overseeing various alliances over the years, Hickman has worked with large companies with extensive teams and smaller firms with smaller teams. Either way, he said, the exercise of stakeholder mapping “has taught me the lesson of who is involved, who can effect change, and who will help lead this relationship to get it off the ground and make it operate?”
Who’s New to the Zoo?
Where at KPMG, Hickman is typically the larger partner mapping to smaller companies, Jennifer Kula, global vice president of strategic alliances, global advisors, and NA public sector at OneStream Software, is on the other side: the smaller entity mapping to the bigger firms.
“There’s so many reasons that the maps are important,” she said. “It’s not just for governance, or escalation. It’s to identify areas within the organization to help sales work together, to help marketing work together. I use it as a measure of how well the alliance is going, how deep and how broad we’re getting throughout the organization.”
On the biopharma side, Jessica Goodman, CSAP, PhD, head of strategy and alliances for Dicerna TRU, Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is also typically representing the smaller partner with bigger counterparts, as a platform partner to supply clinical candidates.
For her, stakeholder mapping is about understanding where the alliance is at various points in its life cycle, from deal negotiations through early discovery and forward from there. “It isn’t a short-term relationship,” she said. “It’s a long path. It will evolve over time, and that’s the fun of it—you get to meet new members of the zoo!”
Titles, Targets, and Plenty of Glue
Given the size and other differences between organizations, those “zoo members” may not be direct counterparts or equivalents in terms of titles.
"Titles don’t mean anything, or very little,” said Watenpaugh. “Companies are organized so differently, and in some cases the smaller company has to map to different practice areas. It can get very complex.”
Kula indicated that at OneStream, the number of partners, areas of the business, and countries involved are so many and various that stakeholder maps necessarily get sliced, diced, and broken down in all kinds of ways.
“We have targets on there, people we need to get in front of when the timing is right, and did we or didn’t we get in front of those people? Are we starting to build relationships with them?” she said. Much of this information resides in the company’s Salesforce CRM, which includes a “Player Maps” add-on. It’s accessible to those inside the company, such as sales teams, who need to know the right stakeholders to talk to at global partners, for example—and even encourages key OneStream executives to form relationships with global partner executives: “mapping and matching,” Kula called it, “making connections for alliance growth, with more than just the alliances team.”
Figuring out who’s who and who does what, according to Watenpaugh, is “complex in a matrixed organization. You have to sort that out—it’s why alliance managers are sometimes called ‘human glue.’ You have to stick those people together.”
"Who’s making decisions? Who’s making investments? Who’s building the thing, who has to approve it, and who’s going to launch it? You’ve got to know all those things,” Hickman said. And stakeholder maps are “part of the glue,” he added.
We Are the Champions
Watenpaugh has a stakeholder mapping tool that essentially measures the quality of stakeholder alignment—that is, their accountability for and commitment to the alliance. In this model stakeholders fall into four quadrants:
- Champions—including the alliance managers and executive sponsors—“if you’re not in there, there’s a problem”
- Cheerleaders— supporters of the alliance who are not accountable for its success
- Hostages—people who work on the alliance but aren’t committed to it—“my boss is making me do this”
- Detractors—those who are neither accountable nor committed and who may actively try to undermine the alliance
Red Light, Green Light?
Lavietes noted that it’s “a really fine line” whether to include “negative sentiments” about stakeholders on a map, whether in a “traffic light” system or some other schema. “It could be risky,” he said.
Goodman said that she and her team are firmly in the “no way” camp on this issue, for a variety of reasons—including that “some of our executive leadership team are colorblind!”
“But beyond that, something you don’t want circulating is a document with someone labeled as ‘red.’ That would be a negative,” she said. Instead, she emphasized having internal conversations to determine who might be influenced to come around to being in favor of the alliance. “I have had the opportunity to see people change their perspective over time.”
Kula echoed that point. “We try to turn a negative into a positive,” she said. “We might say [a stakeholder is] ‘highly aligned with another vendor.’ That just tells us we have more to do in terms of building awareness and having some influence. It’s more about the approach we need to take versus ‘this person is a problem.’”
Relay Race Across the Bridge
In the end, said Kula, “The alliance team needs to be champions to the partners, for sure. If we can’t get excited about the partnership and evangelize it and everything else, no one is going to.”
No one except maybe key executive sponsors, according to Hickman. “If they’re not there with you, then we as alliance teams cannot do that alone,” he said. “We need an advocate or an executive sponsor. That’s their role.” Once they’ve made the importance of the alliance—and their backing—clear, then it’s up to alliance management to “pick up the baton and run with it.”
According to Watenpaugh, these maps should not only cover the alliance team, but also another set of stakeholders on the client side. “Who knows who, and who influences who within the client? You’ve got to extend it that extra mile, that bridge.”
Hickman concluded: “We need to have the right people in the right places, the governance. People change roles, and responsibilities within a role change, and that can impact and change what’s happening. But that mapping should be done to establish, Who is who in the zoo? And do we have everyone lined up? It’s dynamic and it can change. If it changes, then it’s appropriate to update your map.”