Active stakeholders or their representatives are people who are authorized to provide information about the system being built and who can have a say on the requirements, prioritization of work. Stakeholders are a vital part in a software project. They play an important role throughout the life of the project. Their continuous involvement is necessary in success of the IT projects. Without active involvement of the stakeholders in the building of the project, the project may not become successful. Different project methodologies have different types of involvement of the stakeholder. For example in agile development, Product Owner obtains complete understanding of the project from the stakeholders and tells to the team.
Who Are Stakeholders?
In a software development process, the software systems are built, tested, maintained, enhanced and paid. All these activities involve a number of people in building the software. Each of these activities have different group of users working on it. The groups may have different interest, requirements for making the software. All these different group of people comprise stakeholders. Thus the role of stakeholders is the role of an architect in building the complete software. Therefore, we can define a stakeholder as an architect of a organisation, team or group having interest in making a product.
Most of the software development projects involve stakeholders from all the groups but some projects may not require active involvement of the stakeholders of all the activities. The organisation needs to maintain balance between the needs of the stakeholders groups. It is the responsibility of the organisation to prioritize their work according to the needs and if there are conflicts, the organisation should have well reasons to put their points. Also, the organisation should also be clever enough to be an architect itself and put its views properly so that those are considered.
Stakeholders are categorized as below:
Principals: These are the persons who buy our software
End Users: The group of people who work with the software system
Partners: These are the group of people who will make the software work in production environment
Insiders: These are people inside the organisation knowing how the team is working
Why it is important to have stakeholders?
Generally people are not good in explaining what type of product they want, in detail. But people can tell what they like and what they don’t like when shown some prototype. If we present them with something, the stakeholder can give its feedback and with this feedback the organisation can make modifications in what they built to closely match the needs of the stakeholder. It means the organisation needs to work in a collaborative manner if it wants to make products which are actual needs of the software, then it must need to work closely and regularly with the customers. If following the traditional approaches, where the requirements are given in detail in the early phase of the project. The team may not produce what the stakeholder would want ideally, thus proving to be a bit risky.
How to work together with stakeholders?
In order to deliver a successful project the stakeholders and the organisations need to work collaboratively and effectively. They should be at the same level in their understanding. Some of the ways to work together with stakeholders are:
- Understanding IT Skills: The managers and senior managers working with our organisation should understand the skills and technologies we are using, why we are using it and what impact it can have. They need to actively participate in daily development process of the project.
- Timelines: The clients should be able to prioritize tasks as per the requirements and make decisions timely regarding the requirements and the scope of the project.
- Operations and Support Staff: The operations and support staff should be well aware of the technologies and system we are using. Proper training should be provided to them. The operation staff should be proficient in installation of the system.
- Find complete integration knowledge: Generally the software product are integrated with other systems like databases, Integration is very difficult and requires the help of the developers.
- Train the maintenance team: The maintenance developers also need to be trained. If the software product needs to be handed completely or partially it needs to have professionals which are trained in maintenance of the system. The original developers are now set free. Not all the developers are now changed to the maintenance people but some are still involved to provide knowledge to the maintenance people.
Factors affecting stakeholder’s participation:
Many factors affect the participation of stakeholders with the organisation:
- Stakeholder’s participation depends on his/her availability during the project course. If they are not involved in the project, it may lead to building wrong product if the requirements are not clear. If the stakeholder is actively participating in the project course, the project working goes smooth.
- Stakeholder’s location also affects the overall project progress. If the stakeholders are located in different geographic location, the project progresses at a lower rate due to communication gaps. While if the stakeholder and the organisation are located at same place then the interaction can happen more frequently and easily.
- Interaction with the stakeholder is also a factor affecting its participation. The project will run at a slower pace if it requires a facilitator to run the project. If there is a person in between the client and the development team who forms the mode of communication between them, then the chances of points being misunderstood can increase, increasing the delays.
- Which type of communication channel the stakeholder and the organisation are using has a large impact on the project progress. If the organisation follows written discussions, Emails and documentation it would require more time. While using informal ways like face to face discussions, audio calls can be quick.
- If there is a negative relation between the stakeholder and organisation, the stakeholder tend to involve themselves less with the team and stay away from the meetings to a large extent. Thus having a positive relationship helps in good progress of project.
- The participation style of the stakeholder is an important factor impacting the overall participation of stakeholder in project progress. Some stakeholder actively participates in all IT projects and provides their views. While some clients are less active in IT projects are take time to respond to the views. These reactive clients generally do not have much knowledge of IT field. Less participation leads to slower project growth.
How to gain access of stakeholders in IT Projects?
The stakeholder’s participation in running a project successfully is crucial. Therefore it important to have stakeholders access all the time. Some points which we can keep in mind are:
- Always involve stakeholder in the project and get support from them. Some stakeholders are very much interested to be involved in participating in the project. They want to contribute actively. While some stakeholders can be easily convinced to be involved in the project.
- Always be available for the stakeholders. In IT projects the clients are generally at different geographical locations, some are time bound. So there should be flexibility from the organisation on their availability be it once in a week or few hours only.
- Understand that it is important to involve a stakeholder in the project and would it impact the progress. It is important that we understand this and be ready to justify it when
- The stakeholders generally do not interact directly with the development team, There is a facilitator or product owner that communicates with the client. So we should be comfortable to work with the representative of the stakeholder and not the stakeholder it to run our project.
- The managers of the organisation should be well versed to find out the involvement of stakeholder in the project. They should be able to understand how will the stakeholders support and involvement help in course of project and decide.
- If the stakeholders are not being involved actively then you should be able to justify it well and fight for it since it is crucial for the success of the project. It is most important to know what your clients want.
- During the course of the project, we need to be very polite with the stakeholders and thank them regularly for their participation in the project. Communicate regularly with the stakeholder and explain them how helpful their efforts have been in the project course. The stakeholders would always try to divert from the project to perform their other jobs. It is the organisation that needs to keep them involved in the project.
Over to you:
To run a successful IT project, different teams work collaborate and work together to make it a success. Each team member should keep some points in the mind while working in a team.
- The team members should always keep on learning and expand their skill set.
- They should share all the information related to the project and also the work which is in progress.
- They should make the best system between the resources.
- At organisation level, follow the software processes and improve the process when needed.