Throughout this series I’ve talked about why it matters to engage your stakeholders, how to identify your stakeholders, kicking off the project and requirements phase effectively, and developing a requirements work plan (including addressing change management). In this final post of the series, I share a few tips for keeping this engagement going throughout the rest of your project.
Hopefully by now you’ve built a solid foundation of trust and your stakeholders are fully engaged in the process.
The key now is to keep the engagement level high and continue to guide them through the process.
Remember that working on projects may not be their primary job and the more you communicate expectations and re-orient your stakeholders to where you are in the process, the easier it is for them to focus on the tasks at hand.
So, below, I share a few tips that have helped me to effectively keep stakeholders engaged throughout the remaining phases of the project.
Once you have requirements complete, you should be working to identify one or more possible solutions to each requirement or set of requirements.
- Explain the process to your stakeholders and what they can expect as a deliverable from this phase.
- Remember that not all solutions need to be technical. The solution may be a business process change that does not require any new software to be developed.
- If a solution was discussed during requirements, be sure to address it when presenting solutions. Even if what you present is why the analysis proved it not to be an appropriate or recommended solution.
- As you present each option, identify the pros and cons and any information that will help your client make the decision regarding which solution option best meets their needs. This may sometimes mean that some requirements are not met. But by providing the necessary information for your stakeholders to make an informed decision, you are building their trust in you and the process.
Once a solution (or set of solutions) is selected, start the transition to Specifications.
- Acknowledge that this is yet another shift in thinking – now getting down to “how” the requirements are being implemented. The first time around, this might take a little extra time for people to get going, so account for that.
- It is especially important to remind your stakeholders of the shift in thinking if you’re using an iterative-type process where you cycle between requirements and specifications multiple times.
- Consider another kick off to explain the process, the techniques you will use, and how the information will be captured.
Development and Testing
- Continue to act as the liaison and educator for your stakeholders throughout the process.
- Work with your stakeholders to prioritize any defects or issues, helping them to understand the impacts of any issues and providing work arounds where necessary.
- Be open to modifying the process. Solicit feedback from the team to find out what is working for them and what is not as effective. By asking for constant feedback, your stakeholders will begin to feel invested in the process and will either suggest changes or buy into it more fully.
- Clearly document and communicate any work expected of your stakeholders in advance of a meeting. This allows them to feel satisfaction in completing their responsibilities and allows for more productive work sessions.
When in doubt, err on the side of over-communicating.
Especially when working with a team for the first time, I re-iterate the process with every meeting and email; grounding them in where we are currently within the overall process and what’s coming up next. I have found this to be one of the simplest and yet most important elements in my ability to build trust with my stakeholders and keep them fully engaged in the process.
What are some other things you can do to keep your stakeholders engaged? I’d love to hear what has worked for you, so please leave your ideas in the comments below.