“Behind good brands lie stakeholder companies.”: – Will Hutton
According to Dan Brown –
There are users — the people who will use your product.
There are collaborators — the people with whom you will build, market and sell the product.
And then there are stakeholders — the people who perhaps don’t have a clear role, but do have an interest in your work.
Stakeholder management is a discipline that helps us to improve our relationship with our stakeholders. It involves systematically identifying stakeholders; analyzing their needs and expectations; and planning future engagements with them.
In Scrum, a stakeholder is anyone with a vested interest in the product who is not part of the Scrum Team. These are the people who’ll help you discover, develop, release, support and promote the product. A Product Owner has to be in constant touch with the key stakeholders to maximize the value of the product.
Why is it so Important?
As Product Owners, we are delivering values to our end users. In Scrum, the only way to measure the success or failure of an increment is via stakeholder feedback. For example, if after project Go-Live, a service response time is poor and you get first-hand feedback from your stakeholder, then as a product owner, it is an opportunity for you to put corrective measures in the upcoming sprints.
So long as the Product Owners and the stakeholders are heading towards a common goal; receiving inputs and feedback from the different stakeholders becomes easier to manage. In most cases, hearing back from different stakeholders can help outline any potential issues, risks or improvements Project Owners might have otherwise missed.
As I said in the beginning, stakeholders are not part of the Scrum team, that’s why sometimes stakeholders are considered as free resources that can do the work with you, that’s why you as a Product Owner need to know how to manage them and keep them interested to that extent, how they will get involved and what will they gain from these involvements.
How to go about it?
The process of Stakeholder management consists of the following phases:
* Identifying Stakeholders
As a first step, one should have a list of all potential stakeholders. Without the right set of stakeholders, your Sprint review sessions are meaningless. Once created, the list should be periodically updated and reviewed. For better accessibility, the stakeholder list (map) should be kept in a central place like team SharePoint, MS Teams or Confluence spaces.
Usually, identification is done towards the start of a new project. However, identification can also be done post-go-live, once the service is operational. You can start stakeholder identification by asking the following questions in a team brainstorming session:
- Who is affected positively and negatively by the project deliveries?
- Who makes the decisions about money?
- Who are the suppliers?
- Who are the end-users who work on the product?
- Who could solve potential problems with the project?
- Who is in charge of assigning or procuring resources or facilities?
- Who are the key decision-makers?
- What are interdependencies and who owns them?
* Stakeholder Analysis
Once you have the stakeholder list ready, it is very important to analyze every stakeholder as no two stakeholders will have the same interest in your project. Being a busy Product Owner, it is not possible for you to focus equally on each stakeholder. As a next step, you will have to categorise your stakeholders based on their interest and influence on the project.
This categorization will help us in coming up with an engagement plan (at a later stage) based on the popular stakeholder Influence/interest framework.
Establishing a level of interest, influence and/or impact will enable you to interact more efficiently with a particular stakeholder.
To measure the possible influence of your stakeholders, identify their level on a scale of high, medium to low:
High: Stakeholder with strong ability to impact your project.
Medium: Stakeholder with a significant interest in, but a lower level of power to affect the project.
Low: Stakeholder with little ability to affect the project.
Beware of the scenario where a less influential but very much interested stakeholder is promoted and becomes more influential one day.
* Stakeholder Engagement Plan
Once you have identified stakeholders, categorize them according to their interest and influence, next step is to come up with a detailed communication/engagement plan. Like Scrum being an empirical (based on what is experienced or seen and not on theory) process, this engagement plan has to be a live document which will keep on changing as and when required.
The stakeholder engagement plan consists of:
- Name of the stakeholder
- Mode of communication (meeting, email, report)
- Frequency of communication (daily, weekly, monthly, need basis)
- His current level of engagement (e.g. supportive, neutral or difficult)
- Target/desired level of engagement
I recommend three things that can be helpful to start with stakeholder management:
- Be aware of the fact that every product has its own stakeholders. There are chances that you have not listed them yet or have not yet come up with a stakeholder list/register. Not an ideal situation.
- Don’t worry, it’s never too late. Start with an initial stakeholder map, and categorize them according to the interest/influence framework. Refine the stakeholder map over time. Once every quarter is recommended.
- Decide upon specific ways of collaborating and communicating with each group/person. Remember if your product (for ex. in a big enterprise) is being used by thousands of users, not every user is your key stakeholder. Hence, your expert judgement and insights are key in such a scenario.
Appreciate your feedback!