Effective Stakeholder Engagement is key to the product's success and one of the essential skills all product people should have. This article is final part of the Effective Stakeholder Engagement series. Below are the previous articles in the series
All the above steps are fundamental to having a sound Stakeholder Engagement strategy. However, we live in a world where nothing is permanent and things change rapidly.
Let's look into a few common types of changes that we see around:
We are living in the technology era. The advent of new technologies can massively disrupt many industries. It may kill industries, companies, products and services but may also creates opportunities for new ones. New products get launched, new industries emerge, new features are launched, old features are killed, and products are discontinued.
For example, Artificial Intelligence has changed the way people are building products. The Nov-2022 launch of Chat GPT and followed by GPT 4, has disrupted so many industries. Probably in the coming decades, Artificial Intelligence will not remain a ‘nice to have’ thing and will turn into a ‘necessity for survival’ for many organisations.
Product Strategy can change based upon not only big disruptions such as technology or economy but also because the organisation/product vision can get changed. Few examples,
- Key target users/customers can change
- Value proposition change from being mass market to niche market
- Pricing strategy can change from Cost Plus to Value-Based
These changes can massively disrupt ‘What we build’ and ‘how we build’ products and features.
Sometimes, Why we build, What we produce and how we build don’t change. The only thing that can change is organisational structures. This can result in changes to the decision-makers.
A few more examples of organisational structure change:
- New people may arrive
- Layoffs may happen
- Hierarchy structure can change
- People could be promoted/demoted,
- And many more...
All these can result in changing people’s goals, influences and interests.
Above are just a few big changes happening around products. There are so many other small changes as well such as
- Priorities change ( e.g. someone has started shouting too much for the features and pressure is mounting)
- A critical incident may appear
- Assumptions were proven wrong hence we need to change the experiments
- 2 days of tasks turned into 10 days of tasks and hence timeline changes
- Customers not using features
- Organisational politics
- Someone resigned
- Conflicts within the team happening
Impact of Change & Volatility On Stakeholder Engagement Strategy
Change is inevitable and it will happen. Stakeholder Engagement Strategy will also get impacted and should be changed accordingly.
What can change in terms of the Stakeholder Engagement Strategy? Let’s explore this in terms first three steps of the Stakeholder Engagement Strategy
Step 1: Stakeholder Exploration ( Detailed Article is here)
This step is about identifying the right stakeholders by asking questions such as
- Who are the Users?
- Who wants to know how things are managed?
- Who can change the direction of the product?
- Who will help us in creating the product?
Answers to these questions will change over time. You just can’t take a risk of asking these questions once and forget about it.
How often you should do the stakeholder exploration? It depends upon how big the change has taken place.
One practice that has helped me over time is, looking at the list of stakeholders at least once every Sprint before I sent out invites for Sprint Review or send any report. I check who could be users of the features that we have built, who helped us in building these features, and who want to know more about the features.
Tip: Make Stakeholder exploration a regular activity, not just a onetime or a tick-box activity.
Step 2: Stakeholder Analysis & Mapping (detailed article is here)
People’s goals, purpose, challenges, the information they need from us, and the information we need from them can, etc can change and vary from time to time.
For key stakeholders or groups of stakeholders; I revisit respective Empathy Mapping or Stakeholder Persona Canvas frequently.
Tip: Don’t review Stakeholder Persona Canvas or Empathy Mapping alone. Involve other team members. Product Backlog Refinement and Sprint Retrospective are really good space for this activity.
Stakeholder Mapping can change as well. People’s influence can change over time. Their interest can change as well. Even their positioning with our product/decisions can change over time as well.
This should reflect in the updating Stakeholder Radar or Matrix of Influence.
Image From Professional Scrum Product Owner- Advanced Course by Scrum.org
Regular inspection and adaptation of Stakeholder Analysis are highly advisable.
Especially, keep a close look at the interest of the people. A different group of stakeholders may be interested in the different sets of features. Hence, their interest in your product will change based on what you have built or what you are going to build.
Step 3: Stakeholder Communication Strategy (detailed article is here)
If stakeholders’ goals, challenges, interest, influence or positioning change; this will also reflect in the changes to
- The message we want to pass on
- How will the message be passed on
- How frequently should the message be passed on
For example, you may be working on a Banking Application product. Your Product Goal may be ‘improving customer service score by 10% by end of Q2- 2023’.
Related Sprint Goal may be ‘improving identification of vulnerable customers’
You may have created a few features that identify & flag customer vulnerability. A few departments that may be really interested in these features could be Debt Management and Customer Services teams. The Debt Management team would like to use this score to support vulnerable customers when their accounts go in arrears.
Also, when organisation structure change happens, who you spend more time in 1:1 may change as well.
You would like to invite them during Sprint Reviews or maybe involve some of the users in these teams during the Sprint. However, there may be departments that might not be very interested in these features.
You must inspect and adapt your strategic and tactical communication regularly.
For example, the steps I follow for tactical communication:
- Inspect current Sprint and Product Goals.
- Check which stakeholder’s goals or challenges are aligned or opposed to the Sprint Goal. This will help in understanding their potential interest.
- Inspect their potential influence in decision-making for the future of the Product including the product roadmap for the next few Sprints.
- Sent out a Product Wiki page or product wall link that includes: the latest Product Roadmap, Product Goal & Vision, Key metrics around the Product, a link for the Product Backlog, Impact Mapping, User Story Mapping, etc.
- Sent out details of what features we have built. Also if available, sent out some videos/materials about how these feature work.
- Inspect Influence & Interest.
- Invite High-Interest groups to the Sprint Reviews to collect feedback.
This approach has helped me reducing my meeting time as well obtaining better quality feedback by engaging right people at a right time.
Stakeholder Engagement Canvas
I would also like to share the tool that I have developed which pretty much is the sum of first 3 steps of Stakeholder Engagement Strategy. I regularly inspect and adapt this canvas with my team.
Moreover, it helps my team also to understand who the key stakeholders are and what are they looking for. This has helped in when product start scaling and team can also help me in stakeholder engagement.
Successful product requires successful stakeholder engagement. I hope you have enjoyed this series of Stakeholder Engagement Strategy. If you are tried or planning to try some of ideas we have discussed in the series then please let share with us.
To learn more about Stakeholder Engagement, please join Scrum.org PSPO or PSPO-A classes.
You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a high resolution pdf of the Stakeholder Engagement Canvas.