Learning who typical Agile stakeholders are won’t make you list the key stakeholders for your project. That’s why in this article you’re not only going to learn who stakeholders are, but also how to identify and prioritize the ones that apply to your project. As a bonus, grab a set of tips about managing and engaging stakeholders effectively.
In Agile development, stakeholders are represented by a wide range of people interested in project results. For example:
Stakeholders differ from case to case – especially key ones – so you need to perform stakeholder analysis to select yours.
Step 1: Identify. To identify your project’s stakeholders, start with listing every individual and group who is impacted by your project’s outcome and has an interest in its success.
Step 2: Analyze. Name your stakeholders’ needs and goals, and identify what brings business value to each of them.
Step 3. Prioritize. Create a stakeholder map (we explain later how to do it) to pick the ones who have the biggest interest and influence.
Managing stakeholders is essentially the art of knowing how to communicate with them in an engaging way.
Step 4: Plan communication. A stakeholder map will help you distinguish those who just need to be informed about the progress from active meeting participants. Build a plan of meetings, name channels, and establish the frequency of communication for each individual and group.
Step 5: Engage effectively. Your development team can engage key stakeholders by encouraging them to actively participate in meetings, like sprint reviews or retrospectives, and appreciating their feedback.
You don’t want your product to end up in a trash because of the fact that it doesn’t meet business goals and user requirements, do you? So you can’t afford to overlook close collaboration with stakeholders.
To avoid pitfalls, start with identifying your key stakeholders and understanding their roles, and then launch an effective communication and management plan.
The quality of this collaboration will directly impact the success of your project.
No time to waste, let’s dive in.
A stakeholder is either an individual, group, or organization who is impacted by the outcome of a project. They have an interest in the success of the project.
Project Management Institute defines stakeholders as:
<blockquote>Individuals and organizations who are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected as a result of project execution or successful project completion.</br>- Project Management Institute<br></blockquote>
Stakeholders will be positively or negatively affected by the outcome of your project and can have different degrees of influence on its success.
Stakeholders in an Agile project can be either internal or external.
Internal stakeholders are those whose interest in your project comes from a direct relationship. External stakeholders don’t work with you directly, don’t necessarily know you’re building a product, but will be affected by it in the future.
Examples of internal stakeholders:
Examples of external stakeholders
In the case of Agile product development you need to strongly focus on internal stakeholders, however, the most important external stakeholders are the future users of your product.
Key stakeholders stay on guard of creating a product that helps to achieve strategic outcomes, so communicating with them allows teams to avoid unnecessary rework.
Close cooperation with stakeholders helps to build the prototype and the product in accordance with the client’s requirements and meet the business needs.
The Agile methodology emphasizes the importance of increased collaboration with stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle, as well as maintaining clear and stable communication lines.
Since the business needs may change throughout the project, Agile promotes the need for iterations with feedback from stakeholders, especially during sprint reviews when the team demonstrates the development progress.
The voice of stakeholders is crucial while making decisions since they’re the most important source of requirements. Lack of effective communication with stakeholders ends up with waste resources and inability to achieve strategic goals.
Collaboration with stakeholders should increase transparency and provide clarity.
Collaboration with stakeholders means a huge reduction of risk. If they are actively involved in the process and often give feedback, they add value and increase the team’s productivity.
Collaborating and engaging stakeholders ultimately saves time and money, improving the chances of finishing a project on time and within budget. Surprises and roadblocks are eliminated early.
Direct communication with stakeholders provides new insights into a product. It’s good to hear from various angles and different perspectives. It allows the team to make more informed decisions, and risks can be identified before they become threats.
Plus, a collaborative approach helps to build trust.
<span class="colorbox1" fs-test-element="box1"><p>Stakeholder analysis is the process of identifying the project’s stakeholders, deciphering their level of involvement, participation, influence, and interest, and dividing them into groups.</p></span>
Start with thinking about all the people who are affected by your project, who have power over it, who influence it in some ways, and who have an interest in its success.
You can ask yourself the following questions:
You also can identify stakeholders by looking at existing documentation and organizing workshops.
Once your comprehensive list of the stakeholders is prepared, think about their requirements, goals, and needs. You’re building a foundation for your communication plan and selecting stakeholders who require the most attention.
Understand their preferences:
Analyze if there can be any conflicts within stakeholders in your group and prepare to manage them.
A stakeholder canvas is a tool that can help you to perform the analysis of stakeholders – acknowledge their roles, goals, needs, and requirements.
You can extend your canvas with pains and gains, issues, and topics for engagement, ability and reasons to engage.
Prioritizing stakeholders allows you to understand their strategic objectives better and establish processes needed to obtain the needed outcomes.
Among all the stakeholders you identified, there are ones who have the power to block your action, ones who are interested in your progress, and ones who don’t care so much about all that.
Prioritizing stakeholders is based on their role, influence, interest, and availability.
You can prioritize them by creating a stakeholder map, also called the matrix of influence or a power/interest grid. The matrix of influence compares stakeholders’ level of authority with their need for active involvement.
The stakeholder map allows teams to select the most important stakeholders and serves as a basis for the communication plan.
The goal is to put all of the stakeholders on a grid and divide them based on the power they have over the product and the interest they have in being updated about your progress.
While creating your map, remember to place stakeholders where they actually are, not where they would like to be.
<span class="colorbox1" fs-test-element="box1"><p>Note: Often you won’t treat stakeholders from the same square in the exact same way. For one stakeholder, “keep satisfied” can mean that a project meets the deadline and fits the budget. For others, it can mean including them in each demo.</p></span>
After finishing your stakeholder map, plan to… reevaluate it.
You need a systematic approach to identify and prioritize stakeholders, because they may change over time, as well as their communication and engagement needs.
At the beginning of a project, you often aren’t able to tell specifically who you’ll be working with and what are their needs and expectations. That’s why it’s a good practice to reassess your assumptions from time to time.
In Scrum, the Product Owner is accountable for managing stakeholders and customers. They remain accountable, however, they can delegate the responsibility to someone else. Among other roles responsible for managing stakeholders are: Project Manager, Delivery Manager, Business Analyst.
Stakeholder management is the process of maintaining good relationships with people who are interested in your product’s success and have the most impact on your work.
Communication is vital to understand their requirements, desires, and goals, as well as business success indicators. With a proper communications plan, you can answer stakeholders’ questions before they arise.
Start with establishing lines of communication. And the simplest way for that is to ask stakeholders for their preferred method of communication.
Building your communication plan, you need to consider the ongoing communication needs of your stakeholders.
On the basis of your stakeholder map, analyze:
Always remember to think about the purpose of your communications.
Take into account various means of communication:
You can improve your communication with stakeholders by:
High stakeholder engagement is crucial from the early stages of product development and by involving them in key moments you will benefit from their input and perspective.
In a Scrum development team, the Product Owner or Project Manager typically engages stakeholders. However, in various mixed teams, these responsibilities may also lie on the Business Analyst, Delivery Manager or Account Manager’s side.
<span class="colorbox1" fs-test-element="box1"><p>Check <a href="https://brainhub.eu/library/project-discovery-why-you-need-it/how-to-organize-discovery-workshops"></a>to increase engagement and satisfaction of your stakeholders in 5 days.</p></span>
The sprint review is a powerful meeting to engage stakeholders in a project development lifecycle. During the meeting, they can see the newest release, and often interact with the software. It’s a great moment to give feedback about the work done and propose ideas for the next priorities.
Involving stakeholders into sprint reviews makes it easier to check if everything is going in the right direction, meaning, to meet the business goals of the project.
<span class="colorbox1" fs-test-element="box1"><p>Open and honest communication which recognizes and respects differences is a solution to these obstacles.</p></span>
A communication plan with established procedures (means and frequency) and tools allows to maintain transparency, keep stakeholders informed, and make desired adjustments on time.
That, on the other hand, increases the guarantee of delivering the product on time and within budget, and meeting all the crucial business objectives.
To be transparent with your stakeholders, follow the whole stakeholder management process from identification to solid communication and engagement plan, considering the preferences of each person.
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