When visiting clients to start a new project, it's interesting to find out that the stakeholders have been excluded from the planning or discovery sessions. If the stakeholder is not included, does that make it an IT project? Is there such thing as an IT project? What's the potential risk of NOT including stakeholders? What are the advantages of including stakeholders in the beginning stages? Do you want to eliminate process gaps, increase adoption, reduce anxiety, confusion, and frustration during your next project? Keep reading...

Who Establishes Business Requirements?

I am a BIG fan of the IT community. They bring a lot to the table:

  • Identify system requirements
  • Identify technical requirements
  • Provide technical support for systems
  • Provide insight into system analytics

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But, they DO NOT establish business requirements. Stakeholders establish business requirements. For this reason, the BEST case scenario is to have stakeholders involved in the initial planning. At the end of the project, the stakeholders are the employees who use the new software, new hardware, and new processes. Stakeholders should be involved in the discovery sessions to communicate their needs, wants, and concerns. In addition, including them in the early stages gives them the opportunity to make suggestions.

What is the Risk of Excluding the Stakeholder?

Excluding stakeholders can create significant risk and possibly cause the project to take an unforeseen turn leading to:

  • Loss of details in translation
  • Providing assumptions instead of fact
  • Process gaps
  • Low adoption
  • Low buy-in

Reducing Risk and Encouraging Adoption

We have known for decades that people who participate in decision-making that affects their work feel a higher degree of ownership and commitment to that work. We also know, where more people are involved in a joint process of common interest, the quality of output is higher. The same is true of strategic planning. High involvement in the process, by a variety of stakeholders, tends to generate better outcomes and a greater sense of ownership. 

What Are the Advantages of Including the Stakeholder?

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  • Utilization of a vast amount of information
  • Accurate requirements communicated
  • Elimination of process gaps
  • Participation will drive adoption
  • Participants tend to have higher degree of buy-in

Make Change Possible

Have you ever wondered why people in the workplace resist change? Changes at work can be emotionally intense and create the following as a result:

  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • A sense of helplessness

Experts have noted that the experience of going through change at work can mimic that of people who are suffering from grief over the loss of a loved one. Because change can be so physically and emotionally draining, it often leads to burnout. As a change agent, you should try to mitigate as much of these feelings of grief as possible. Change is a process, not an event. Involving the stakeholders will relieve or eliminate some of the feelings that accompany the change process.

Stakeholder Engagement Creates Successful Change

Engaging employees in the planning process itself helps build ownership within the organization. It’s nearly impossible to get where you want to go without a goal, a roadmap, and organizational commitment. Without a goal, you can’t align the organization to a common desired outcome. Without a roadmap, you have no idea what options are available to get there. And without commitment, you cannot ensure that your stakeholders will move in the direction you need to go. Building commitment through stakeholder engagement is an increasingly important element of the strategic planning process.

Greater understanding leads to greater ownership.