Having an important meeting with stakeholders looming on the calendar can make even experienced entrepreneurs, founders and other business leaders feel nervous and overwhelmed.
There’s a lot on the line when you’re speaking to people who hold you accountable for both the business’s successes and its failures. They want confirmation that their investment is growing and that the company is going in the right direction. In these situations, communicating the right information in the right way is critical.
Who is a stakeholder?
Let’s run with the previous example and say your organization is going to update their website. In this case, stakeholders would usually be individuals who are paying for the venture or who directly work with the website. Depending on the type of organization, here is a list of potential “stakeholder” roles:
- Deputy Director
- Chief Information, Financial, Executive Officer
- Project/Program Manager
- Marketing Manager
- Marketing Analyst
- Analyst (most likely the person(s) working with the site)
These stakeholders are pulled in at multiple points on the timeline to stay informed and provide insight on whether the project is going according to plan or not.
What are the types of stakeholder meetings?
So the client has determined they want to update their website and the stakeholders we need to keep involved. Now what?
The first major stakeholder meeting is called the kick-off. It includes all major stakeholders and is used to outline the project’s purpose, goals, and scope. It gives the project team a proper way to introduce themselves and explain what to expect over the course of the project. This includes how involved each stakeholder will be and how much communication they should expect as a result. The core team may only meet once every so often to review bigger updates. However, there may also be a week-to-week team that meets as such to make incremental decisions about the website as it develops.
The stakeholders now know what to expect and when to expect it. The next step is to conduct stakeholder interviews.
Generally, your stakeholder interview questions should allow you to gather insight about the client’s goals/perceptions, message and user engagement, content, administration, and vision. Here are some typical stakeholder interview questions:
- What do you believe are the three main reasons people visit your site?
- Do you seek to increase interaction or feedback with your website visitors on the new site? If so, what information are you seeking from visitors? How will you utilize this information?
- What are the three most important items related to your department’s web presence that you want to be easily accessible and visible on the new website? Why?
- Explain the current process your staff utilizes to add or edit content on the existing website.
- What is the vision for your department in the next five years? For example, will any new program or service areas be added?
Ideally, stakeholder interviews are conducted one-on-one, which is ideal so honest feedback is noted. Answers to questions like these can be used to help update and improve the requirements in the project plan. Collecting valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the website can help to turn pain points into solutions, resulting in more efficient business processes.
Additional Stakeholder Meetings
Further meetings are held anywhere on the timeline after stakeholder interviews and before go-live so stakeholders can stay informed during the development phase of the project. They may also result in decisions to change the way the project is going. The stakeholders’ opinions are of utmost importance, making these meetings necessary for the direction of the project.
What is on the agenda of a typical stakeholder meeting?
Here are a list of things you might see on the agenda in a stakeholder meeting:
- Project timeline
- Milestone tracker
- Milestone status
- Top Action Items
- Issues & Risks
- Next Steps
This list is meant to only include high-level items. Again, the point of these meetings is to stay focused while also mitigating risk. You want to make sure this is happening during the entire timeline of the project.
- Ensures that all factors that relate to the use of the system are identified before design work starts.
- Brings together all the people relevant to the development of a common vision.
While it is difficult to assess the cost-effectiveness of a stakeholder meeting, the lack of stakeholder agreement on the vision, usability goals, business goals, strategic requirements, and constraints could result in wasted time and effort later in the product design process.
Arrange a half-day meeting that includes the key stakeholders.
Before the meeting
- Identify the key issues you need to explore.
- Choose the key stakeholders based on their strategic involvement in the project.
- Provide all participants with a copy of a list of the issues to be discussed at the meeting.
- Develop the ground rules for the meeting, such as how to involve remote stakeholders and set limits on time for particular topics.
At the meeting
Briefly introduce all the stakeholders in the meeting. Do not assume that everyone knows each other. Briefly discuss the following topics:
- What is the overall vision of the system?
- Why is the system being developed? What are the overall objectives? How will it be judged as a success?
- Who are the intended users and what are their tasks? (Why will they use the system? What is their experience and expertise?)
- Who are the other stakeholders and how might they be impacted by the consequences of a usable or unusable system?
- What are the stakeholder and organisational requirements?
- What are the technical and environmental constraints? (What types of hardware will be used in what environments?)
- What key functionality is needed to support the user needs?
- How will the system be used? What is the overall workflow (e.g. from deciding to use the system, through operating it, to obtaining results)? What are typical scenarios of what the users can achieve?
- What are the usability goals? (e.g. How important is ease of use and ease of learning? How long should it take users to complete their tasks? Is it important to minimise user errors? What GUI style guide should be used?)
- How will users obtain assistance when they have problems or questions?
- Are there any initial design concepts?
- Is there an existing or competitor system?
Try to obtain consensus where there is uncertainty or disagreement. If information is missing, agree how this can be obtained and track who is responsible for action items and assign specific dates for the completion of those items. Avoid prolonged discussion of minor issues - keep a list of minor issues and assign someone to deal with those later.
After the meeting
Circulate a summary of the conclusions to all participants.
The material for a stakeholder meeting include:
- Documents related to the project.
- A breakdown of the context of use.
- Large sheets of paper for group activities like brainstorming.
- Sticky notes and markers.
- Project equipment for presenting material.
Who Can Facilitate
The facilitator for this meeting can be a usability practitioner, a product manager, or other leader involved with the project. Some experience at facilitation would be valuable since there are often competing views about goals and vision at the beginning of projects.
Needs tight facilitation, as minor topics can absorb a lot of time. Need good tracking of action items and issues that emerge from the session.
Obtain any missing information. If the information is not easily available, use one of the field study methods or other data collection activity to understand users and their work environments.
Collect and agree detailed information for a context of use analysis.