Join Lauren Bacon for an in-depth discussion in this video Identifying stakeholders, part of Collaborative Design: Managing a Team.
- Stakeholder is one of those corporate lingo terms that merits a definition. It simply means somebody who has an interest in the success of your project, or who's touched by it in some significant way. So, if you were designing a building, the stakeholders might include everyone from the real estate developer, to the architect, to the landscape designers, to the residents. We might even consider the neighbors and the nearby business owners to be stakeholders. In the case of a design project such as a website, our list of stakeholders would include anyone whose work is represented by the website.
So, that might include the communications team, perhaps a product team, people from customer service, and then, of course, there's the end users. And then you'll likely also need to coordinate with folks from IT or whoever's responsible for technology decisions in the organization. Now, you might not have actual end users on your design team, but you sure as heck want to have people on the team who are in regular contact with those people. So, those might include the customer service reps, sales reps, anybody who does community management, and of course, this will vary from one organization to another.
But the point is you want to find representatives for each group of people that's affected by the project. So the first place that I suggest you start is by listing out the groups that have a stake in the project. List out any particular groups of end users, you might also call these "audiences." So let's say our project is a new website for a nonprofit group that raises awareness about environmental issues. Our end users might include the nonprofit's members, their donors and prospective donors, their event sponsors, people interested in environmental causes, even journalists, elected officials, and other nonprofit partners.
So looking at that list of audiences, have a look at your team, be it on the client side, or within your organization and ask yourself, "Who knows the most about what this audience needs?" And another question your might consider is, "Who's already creating content for this audience?" Do this for each group on your list. So, for example it might look like this. Now before you panic about how big your team is starting to look, let me add a couple of caveats. First, the communications department, also known as marketing in some places, is typically familiar with the priorities of every other department.
So if you need to, you can limit your client team to that department. But, I prefer to cast my net a little wider at the beginning of a project, and at least interview all the key stakeholders one on one, to hear their perspectives on their audience that they work with most closely. And there are two important reasons I do this. First, it's a bad idea to assume what the audience wants. So whenever possible, talk to the folks directly accountable to that audience to gather your input. And second, if you want your project to be truly successful, you can't afford to play the telephone game.
So no matter how well-intentioned your project contacts are, it's easy to lose important details in translation from one person to another. So, go to the source. One last caveat, you don't need every stakeholder at every meeting, but try to get them all in the room, at least once or twice if you can. A little bit of research time up front can create a huge payoff in terms of your ability to understand who you're designing for, and how these people will be best served.
- Identifying stakeholders and decision makers
- Defining roles
- Choosing a collaboration model
- Running great meetings
- Resolving conflict
- Thanking collaborators