Written by Alex Geray and Adam Ferrario.
One of the most crucial steps in Business Analysis is the identification and management of stakeholders in a project. Generally, when we talk about stakeholders, we are referring to individuals or groups with a vested interest in the project because either they are involved in the work or affected by the outcomes.
These stakeholders are paramount to the success of the project and can have a huge influence on the outcome. Before you can jump right into managing the project stakeholders, you must find out who they are and the role they will play.
Once a project has been initiated, a Business Analyst (BA) will use a variety of tools to identify the appropriate stakeholders. There are a variety of methods including: interviews, research, checklists, and just brainstorming with the project team. A BA must analyze and determine all the people who are affected by the project, who have influence over it, or have an interest in its success. Missing a vital stakeholder could lead to a loss of requirements, which may heavily impact the project due to a revision leading to completed or in progress tasks being nullified. As a project moves forward it is important that the project team continuously assesses and validates the current stakeholder list.
As stakeholders are identified, there should be a plan in place to determine their involvement in a project and their impact on the design. This assessment can be done either informally or with a formal document created depending on the size and scope of the project.
When performing this activity, some things to consider are:
- What are their motivations? Who will interact with the stakeholder? (Do they have anyone on the team with an established relationship?)
- What is their view of the project? (Are they supportive or going to be the “squeaky wheel”?)
- What will keep the stakeholder engaged?
- What will influence their view of the project?
- What level of involvement will they have? (Will they be informed or be a decision maker?)
The answers to these questions will drive the active management of stakeholders going forward.
Effective stakeholder management requires excellent communication skills such as active listening, displaying empathy, and transforming speaking style based on the target audience. Once stakeholders have been identified and assessed, it is imperative that an ongoing relationship between all stakeholders are managed by the project support staff including the BA. Different stakeholders will require different management techniques and have different priorities within the project. For example, a customer, domain Subject Matter Expert (SME), or end user will be most concerned with the end results with less concern for the budget or timeline. An implementation SME, project manager, or system architects will be more concerned with the design and actual implementation of the solution.
Concretely define the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders as well as help determine their point of inclusion. By including the appropriate parties in the proper conversations, it can vastly change the impact of the decisions made and increase the productivity of design conversations.
By leveraging the expertise and influence of the correct stakeholders, the project team will be set up for higher rates of organizational adoption and ongoing maintenance of the solution after the project concludes. Handing over deliverables to a stakeholder who is already familiar with and involved in the project's development will lead to a more permeable adoption and a smoother operational transition once the project has reached its conclusion.
At Lewis Fowler, Stakeholder Management is more than simply making our stakeholders happy during any project. It is about using their time and expertise to achieve an optimal solution. When we look back at the impact from Stakeholder Management, it should be clear that it can help in identifying appropriate requirements, promote the visibility of the project, improve how a project is viewed, and the results after the project has concluded.