Identify and involve your stakeholders

Posted May 29, 2020

Some product owners, managers and organizations have a believe that for it to be okay to show someone the product being developed it has to be polished, shiny and with all the expected features in place. Every occasion where the product is presented is a risk of being criticized, and if the product is in an early stage of development, they are not yet ready for critique.

“The product needs to be impressive! The company’s reputation is at stake!”

This thinking often causes the first feedback from actual stakeholders to be received way too many sprints into the development process. In worst case at the first product release. That’s when reality hits us! Hard.

As a Scrum Master you need to challenge this limiting belief and coach the organization to think about this differently. Everyone in the organization need to understand the importance of continuous feedback and transparency, and the consequences of not having it. You need to coach the product owner to actively seek stakeholder feedback, at all times, and to work closely with them to understand their needs.

Getting feedback from stakeholders early and often is crucial for the success of a product. How else can we know that we are on the right track?

Question is; Who should we seek feedback from? Who is a stakeholder, really?

Typically, a stakeholder is anyone affected by the outcome of the product. Generally, the most important stakeholders can be categorized in three different categories.

  • Users - The people that will use the product hands-on. These are the people whose behavior, life or day-to-day work will change because of the products entrance to the market.
  • Customers - The people who will pay for the product. This may be the same people as the users, but not necessarily. If you for example will sell your product to businesses the users may be employees in one department, but the customer may be someone at finance or a manager with a budget responsibility.
  • Funders - The people responsible for funding the development effort.

All these types of stakeholders will bring different and important perspectives of the product to attention. They often have quite different needs that are all important for the success and existence of the product.

It’s the responsibility of the product owner to try to balance the different needs, and to effectively do so the stakeholders need to be correctly identified and extensively involved in the development as needed. The stakeholders and their needed involvement may change over time, and the product owner need to understand this as well. As the product evolve new stakeholders may appear.

If you are working in a complex setup or a big organization where the stakeholders are not that obvious to identify, start by asking yourself these three questions.

  • Where does the money come from?
  • Whose life will change with this product?
  • Is there anyone who would be upset if he or she did not know what was going on with this product?

The answers to these questions might give you a clue on where to start looking.

Keep the stakeholders involved. Make sure they attend your sprint reviews. Listen closely to their feedback. Collaborate on your next step forward towards a better product!

Please reach out to me if you have any feedback or comments!