Bridging the Stakeholder Gaps

In software development, if I asked you about “bridging the gap” what would spring to mind? Why, bridging the gap between the business and the development team of course. Well this is not the only gap that needs to be bridged.

This post focuses its attention on the gaps that exist between the business stakeholders themselves. These arise from the different view points and goals of the stakeholders which are seldom aligned and often conflict.

Many Worlds

Stakeholders and stakeholder groups have different perspectives, sets of objectives and day-to-day constraints. One group may be focused on generating new and repeat customers; another on selling advertising; another on management information; another on usability of the product; another on producing engaging content; another on efficiency of back-office processes. It’s fair to say that each of these stakeholder groups lives in a different ‘world’ ruled by different ‘forces’.

In order to manage the stakeholders with respect to a software product, it’s important to  understand these ‘worlds’ and their ‘inhabitants’. This understanding facilitates the following:

  • good working relationships with stakeholders
  • effective communication and collaboration
  • understanding the reasoning behind requirements
  • facilitating a shared and common understanding between stakeholders
  • helping stakeholders groups to spot opportunities to work better together
  • obtaining buy-in to the development process
  • obtaining buy-in to the product being developed
  • higher-quality products (fit for purpose and fulfilling stakeholder goals)

The rest of this post looks at techniques and approaches to exploring these different worlds, getting to know their inhabitants and ultimately bridging the gaps between individual stakeholders.

Understand the “As Is” world before the desired future “To Be” world

Focus on the problem first, not solutions

Separate opinions from facts

Opinions tend to be biased in some way based on past experiences, are changeable, and at worst impulsive and may become obsolete almost as soon as they have been expressed, “Did I really say that? I can’t remember.”

Capture and share stakeholder goals & constraints

Stakeholders within one group may not have a full view of the goals and constraints of another even if they work closely together. Stakeholders quite naturally operate on a need to know basis, expressing a view with respect to a specific point of concern at any given time. There often exist opportunities to increase awareness and understanding across groups that lead to better collaboration and more specifically to better product requirements.

Establish a shared vision and consensus perspective

 

Use Pictures

People like pictures and they are also more likely to share them and use them for reference.

Rich Pictures… workflow diagrams, Use Case diagrams… architectural block diagrams (non-techy) and schematics

 

Go Native

Also called “Ethnographic study”????

 

Understand boundaries of responsibility and authority

Spot when lines of responsibility are crossed and handle tactfully!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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