Whether a project is using a waterfall or an agile delivery method, stakeholder engagement is one of the keys to successful user adoption. For the sake of this discussion, let’s explore the value of effective stakeholder engagement and its impact using agile. First, let’s define stakeholder engagement.
In my opinion, stakeholder engagement is defined as working with and building relationships with people who are affected by or can have an impact on the success of a project. Engagement is the foundation for involving stakeholders and refers to the formal management of the human dimensions of changes associated with any project implementation. The core elements of stakeholder engagement lie within one’s ability to:
- Coordinate communications activity across all parties, to monitor the accuracy of the key messages, improve efficiency, and avoid mixed messages being given to different stakeholders.
- Plan enough time for effective stakeholder engagement. One size doesn’t fit all. We need to employ a variety of techniques to understand the range of stakeholder views.
- Collect and analyze the full range of views, and group them into themes to get the big picture. People give their own views, and identify what the potential issues are for them.
- Be prepared to listen. We cannot assume we know what people want and what their aspirations are, as they can be different to what we perceive them to be.
If these are the tenets of stakeholder engagement and there may be many more, then the way one engages stakeholders in an agile environment lends itself to making the tenets a reality. In agile, there are multiple opportunities for stakeholders to be involved in the product development process. The same benefits from stakeholders being involved in iterative product development are achieved when they are involved in readiness/adoption activities early and often in the process.
One of the many attributes of agile is the cadence for business involvement during the sprint process. Sprint-based stakeholder involvement from a change readiness perspective enhances user adoption by providing multiple opportunities for stakeholder and team engagement—before, during, and after each sprint. By involving the different types of stakeholders in every step of the project, you will experience the following benefits:
- A high degree of collaboration between the business and the project team
- More opportunities for the stakeholders to truly understand the business’s vision and objectives of the project
- Increased stakeholder trust in the team’s ability to understand how they will be affected by the change
- The ability for change readiness activities to be implemented and measured, and risk to user adoption mitigated during every sprint
- The ability to develop and test training material’s effectiveness for each sprint
- The ability to build training curriculum maps by sprint, allowing users to understand what training will be delivered to support their day-to-day task
- Acceptance criteria for readiness and as product development, which supports user adoption early and often in the project lifecycle
- Deeply engaged project stakeholders, promoting ownership and increased user adoption
At the end of the day, stakeholder engagement is important regardless of the project delivery method. It is critical to user adoption. However, when more opportunities exist for a high degree of engagement to occur, the probability of the stakeholder commitment and ownership required to achieve the business goals of any project increases.