Building and maintaining stakeholder engagement is key to delivering higher quality products. For this reason, constant communication and collaboration are imperative—however, sometimes it’s unclear what specific techniques actually keep stakeholders engaged. Below are five techniques that I’ve found to be particularly effective throughout my agile coaching career:
1. Encourage Early Involvement
Involving all stakeholders early in your product development effort establishes a precedent that their involvement is both expected and important. To reinforce this idea, invite them to requirements discussions, such as story mapping and story writing sessions. Their attendance will give them a sense of inclusivity and make them feel more engaged with your agile team. During these sessions, ask them questions about the value of the product and seek their perspective so you can better understand how they envision the product being used.
2. Connect the Dots & Explain Product Benefits
People pay attention to things that benefit them—but they don’t necessarily have to be users of a product to benefit from it. Your stakeholders may get value from the product simply because of the value it provides to others in their organization. For example, if a product increases sales, this provides an obvious benefit to the VP of Sales; however, it is equally valuable—but possibly less apparent—that increased sales will also benefit the VP of Marketing. Help stakeholders draw direct connections; the more knowledgeable they are of your product’s benefits, the more engaged they’ll be with your team.
3. Ensure Inclusion in Priority Discussions
Invite the stakeholders to participate in priority discussions, as they are an integral part of the decision-making process. In the Scrum framework, the Product Owner makes the priority decisions; however, they use multiple data points to make the best tradeoff decisions–one data point being stakeholder input. For this reason, it’s critical to ensure the stakeholders remain in direct communication with the Product Owner.
4. Collaborate During Release Planning
During Release Planning, the teams responsible for building the product create a plan that outlines what they will likely work on for the next release. Because this involves many discussions around dependencies, risks, value delivery, and development priorities, stakeholders should be included in this event. If they are, you can be sure that they’ll feel more involved with each subsequent release.
5. Solicit Feedback During Reviews
Stakeholder feedback is invaluable, so be sure to ask for it during product review sessions such as Sprint Reviews. Listening to their feedback reassures stakeholders that their opinion is heard and valued.
High stakeholder engagement is necessary for building high-quality software or other complex products. By ensuring their involvement at key points during product development—from the early stages through delivery—you will benefit from their input and interest, and ultimately, deliver higher quality products.
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