A stakeholder is anyone who has an interest in your site and products; whether this is financial, reputational, managerial, even regulatory or some other form of investment is immaterial. Providing they have a legitimate, formalised relationship of some type they can be classed as a stakeholder.
You might initially ask why you would want to include some of these groups in your development process and user research; if you do, think again. Here are a few possible scenarios that failure to engage might produce:
- You don’t involve senior management and they close your project down due to a lack of understanding or information;
- Failure to involve regulators leads to you being referred for possible breaches;
- Failure to communicate with and involve other teams and staff members leads to a lack of support for the project and even non-cooperation ;
- Not consulting suppliers leads you to making decisions that can’t be realised or only with additional expense – or leads you to making promises you can’t deliver;
- Failure to adequately consult with and involve finance leads to budget cuts or withdrawal or a reluctance to invest in further development.
These are just a few of the potential pitfalls of not involving stakeholders in user research – and this without even factoring customers into the picture. So, assuming now you accept the value of involving stakeholders what is the best way to do this. Here are a few pointers:
Communicate what you are going to do before you do it.
This has a number of advantages. It will:
- elicit previous experiences, prejudices, possible obstacles before you have expended any time on the project;
- get some commitment from important players so they can’t withdraw support because they didn’t know or understand fully the implications;
- inform people who are going to have to make decisions or implement the findings. This is very important as people don’t like having surprises sprung on them, especially those that might involve them having to assign staff, budget, effort etc or might affect their status or relative importance in the organisation;
- make sure it doesn’t look like you are just taking off and doing stuff in a maverick way or trying to railroad decisions through.
Make a proper set of objectives and detailed plans
This will make sure you have thought through the idea and have clear goals and a strategy for achieving them. It will also show other stakeholders your thinking (and that you have actually sat down and considered the angles and implications). This can describe to other interested parties what their roles might be and what sort of commitments they might have to make; it should also cover the likely outcomes so stakeholders can see what they are getting from the activity.
Keep stakeholders informed and involved
If you keep others in the loop as user research progresses they will feel more engagement and commitment to the project and less inclined to challenge or even oppose it. They might be able to feed in useful observations and inputs that you may not have in your team and suggest tweaks and adjustments to the process. Additionally you will get more of a sense of a team approach so when the time for delivery comes everyone is in the camp, pointing in the same direction and ready to act.
Stakeholders come in many forms but they can be critical to the success of a user research project. If you would like to learn more about how to engage them, ring us on +44(0)800 024624 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.