As developers, tech partners, and people who help drive businesses, active stakeholder engagement is a prerequisite for delivering tech solutions. After all, your stakeholders are the ‘only’ ones who can tell you what value they want delivered.
Here’s a story
Many years ago, we worked with a large corporate client. Their marketing team told us what they wanted, and we built a solution as planned. When they took and presented the solution to the end user, there was pushback. As for us, until the very end, we didn’t even know who those end users were. We took what we were told at face value and engaged with the client as the ‘only’ stakeholder.
Of course, there’s a moral to this story. There are quite a few. We now embody the takeaways from that experience in how we work—our DevReady Process is a testament to that.
To understand the entire process, let’s begin at the very beginning.
Who are our stakeholders?
Often, we think that our client is our stakeholder. So long as we listen to the client’s wants, we’d deliver that perfect solution. There are times we think that so long as the end user is happy with the solution, we’d be successful. Well, if only!
Here are some characteristics to help us determine our ‘many stakeholders:
- Stakeholders include but are not limited to investors, employees, customers, suppliers, communities, governments, or associations.
- A stakeholder has a vested interest in a company and can either affect or be affected by the operations and performance of the business.
- All stakeholders have their own goals and objectives
- Stakeholders can be both internal and external.
Types of stakeholders
As briefly noted above, stakeholders can be many different people and groups depending on the solution you wish to deliver. They can broadly be classified as internal and external, depending on their position to the organization or a client.
In the example I shared earlier, we did not engage with all stakeholders, and our solution was with resistance because it did not align with what they wanted in the first place.
Understanding our stakeholders and engaging them is crucial because a good discovery process is critical to software development. The requirements generated here set the stage for the entire project, laying the groundwork for success or failure.
That brings us to stakeholder engagement and why it is important.
What is stakeholder engagement?
Business is about managing relationships. The success of a business depends on being able to identify who helps them move forward and who holds the business back. These are all stakeholders, regardless.
Active stakeholder engagement helps a business not just gain trust, confidence and buy-in but also aids in risk-mitigation and conflict management.
Why is stakeholder engagement important?
To put it in the simplest of words: without stakeholders there would be no projects.
Engaging project stakeholders can bring about many benefits. And it is not just about information that stakeholders bring to the table. It is crucial for building relationships, and engaging with stakeholders effectively means you have increased the chances of success for your business.
That said, here are some key benefits:
1. Effective Decision Making
Understanding who the stakeholders are and what their perspectives are is very important. Proper communication with stakeholders means gaining new insights into the solution being delivered. This helps in informed decision-making.
As the goal of a business is to take into consideration the diverse needs of stakeholders, canvassing their opinions early on helps businesses avoid making mistakes and improves decision-making in the long run.
2. Competitive Advantage
Direct communication with stakeholders allows a business to understand their perspective and obtain valuable feedback to improve the designed solution.
New insights from stakeholders help the business gain a competitive advantage, as meeting the needs of the stakeholders is where success lies.
3. Risk Management & Accountability
Stakeholders help a business identify potential risks before they become threats to the project or organisation.
Engaging with stakeholders also improves accountability. Keeping in touch with the stakeholders throughout the development process instils values of trust and transparency and encourages buy-ins.
4. Cost Savings
Engaging with stakeholders can save both money and time. When businesses engage with stakeholders, they improve their chances of finishing a project on time and on budget.
Cost savings may also result from being able to foresee potential risks and bottlenecks and managing them before they become major issues.
5. Trust & Goodwill
Stakeholders need to feel that their opinions are being listened to and that they are valued. This approach helps businesses build goodwill and trust.
A rather short answer to the question as to why we need to engage with stakeholders is to provide better outcomes.
Not engaging with stakeholders, leads to what is most commonly known as a ‘value gap’. What this means is that there is a difference between the delivered business value and the intended business value. This gap between what your stakeholders expected and what your solution actually delivered is what separates a failed business from a successful one.
So, here’s what businesses need to do:
- Identify who the stakeholders are
- Engage with the stakeholders effectively
I know it seems easier said than done. We’ve been there before. And we have learned from our experience that stakeholder engagement can make your business and the lack thereof can break it.
Our DevReady Process involves stakeholder engagement where we refine your solution through workshops, brainstorming sessions, prototypes, and stakeholder interviews, so you can finally have clarity about delivering a solution that will provide real value to your users.
Should be get DevReady—ing then?
Here’s an early Christmas present—the first round of consultation is absolutely free!