Understanding stakeholders is really important for Product Owners or Managers to be able to engage them in the right manner.
In this article, I am talking about a tool that I use a lot to understand my stakeholders.
“Stakeholder.” What does It Mean?
Product Owners can’t know everything and they need help for the success of the product in delivering value to customers or users. This is where stakeholders come in.
A stakeholder is a very broad term and many people define it differently. To me, it’s, “Anyone who directly or indirectly affects the decision making, and directly or indirectly related or affected by decisions taken.” They play a huge role in the success and failure of the products.
Stakeholder: ‘anyone who is directly/indirectly affects the decision making OR directly/indirectly related or affected by decisions taken’.
- PMO or Finance department in a company can affect how the budget has been used, this can impact how much we can build. Once you have made some decisions they also want to know about how you are spending the budget.
- The Customer Service department is affected by the quality of the products or features we build. Sometimes they can also be a great source of customer feedback and can help us in making decisions.
- Users of your product are directly affected by the features incorporated in the product. Why and how they use products or features directly impact product decisions.
What Are ‘Personas’
Personas are fictional representations of customers or users of a product or service. They are widely used in marketing, product design, and User Experience (UX) to build the understanding of the people who will be using the product.
Personas typically include demographic information, and psychographic information, such as values, beliefs, and behaviour patterns. For me, the most important part is the user’s goals, needs, motivations, and pain points.
Personas can then be used as a reference point throughout the product development process, to ensure that the product is meeting the needs of the intended audience.
The purpose of creating Personas is to understand the target audience more deeply and to design products and services that better meet their needs.
Though Personas are widely used for users/customers, I love this technique to understand stakeholders as well.
Stakeholder Persona Canvas
Stakeholder Persona Canvas has got 4 parts or steps.
- General Information
- Goals and Purpose
- Challenges and pain points
- Information Stakeholder Need or Provide
Step 1: Select the stakeholder we want to focus on. If I am doing this activity for the first time, I will start with the most important stakeholder. This may lead to other stakeholders as well.
Write down some basic details such as Name, Job Title and Department.
For Example, James Bond, Head of Customer Services
Step 2: This step is about understanding their ‘Why’ and their success metrics i.e. Key Goals. We need to think about their department and role. We need to see how tightly or loosely their goals are tied to our product goals. This will also help us in understanding how much interest they have in the product or services we are delivering but also their potential influence as well.
For example, James Bond, Head of Customer Services. The purpose of his role could be to ensure customer queries are responded on a timely manner to ensure high customer satisfaction.
Key Goals could be:
- Reduction in the total number of calls/queries to the Customer Service team
- Reduction in average response/wait time
- Increase in the total number of queries resolved successfully
- Increase in customer satisfaction post-call/query
- Average Resolution Time decreases
Step 3: What challenges do they see in achieving their purpose/goals? Sometimes they don’t have enough or timely information to help their goals.
For example, James Bond, the Head of Customer Service, challenges could be:
- Too many calls after new product releases. This negatively impacts their goal of reducing the total number of calls.
- Unhappy customers are hard to deal with. This eventually reduces his department’s employee satisfaction.
- Customer Services executives don’t have information readily available to them and this increases average resolution time the as well total number of queries resolved.
Step 4: The outcome of Steps 2 & 3 helps us in understanding what information they need from us to achieve their goals. The information they need from us generally will help them in overcoming challenges they have or achieving their goals.
But it is not always about what information. We also need information from them. We need how our decisions are impacting their goals.
Information James Bond, the Head of Customer Services needs from us
- Key Product Release dates
- Any workarounds/quality issues that are present in product releases.
- Feature Release Notes
- User Guides
Information we need from James Bond, the Head of Customer Services
- What are common customer queries?
- Which of these queries are product issues or training issues?
- Can some of these queries be resolved by ‘Frequently Asked Questions
Pro Tips for Using Stakeholder Persona Canvas
🚀Don’t do it alone. Involve your team members. These are based on assumptions and sometimes can be biased. Co-creation workshops enable collaboration and generate better ideas. Moreover, team members can understand stakeholders’ needs, pains and goals better.
🚀Refine as you learn. These are assumptions only and we might not have all the information when you first use these techniques. Don’t aim for perfection at the start. Start with your best guess and refine the information as you learn more.
I found Stakeholder Persona Canvas as a great and lightweight tool to understand stakeholders better. As many people are already familiar with User/Customer personas, they find Stakeholder Persona Canvas easier to use.
If you want to learn more about how to influence and engage stakeholders better then join Scrum.org Professional Scrum Product Owner or Professional Scrum Product Owner-Advanced class.