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Who Moved Our Project Stakeholder

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A project stakeholder for an Agile team is a person having a valuable stake in the success of the project. He could also be potentially holding the cash strings for the project. Agile teams need to actively engage with the stakeholders to identify ideas or suggestions, discussing a potential requirement, and then modelling and documenting it. However, in some scenarios it is very difficult to get time slices from the project stakeholder. In other extreme cases, the stakeholder might seem to be uninterested or completely missing in action.

Scott Ambler suggested the importance of active stakeholder partition when he mentioned,

[The] practice of Active Stakeholder Participation is an expansion of eXtreme Programming (XP)'s On-Site Customer that describes the need to have on-site access to people, typically users or their representatives, who have the authority and ability to provide information pertaining to the system being built and to make pertinent and timely decisions regarding the requirements, and prioritisation thereof. Project success often requires a greater level of involvement by project stakeholders.

 Ksenia Woodgate discussed a situation in which the project stakeholder went missing. She mentioned the following repercussions of a missing project stakeholder,

No news is not good news with stakeholder engagement. The team might well be heading for a project that is stopped and all funding pulled, or they could end up deliver something no-one wants, or there could be a massive row with the sponsor about the current lack of proper engagement.

Ksenia cautioned about projects which had a missing or an uninterested stakeholder. This, ultimately led to waste of money, time, suffering reputation and relationships. According to her, an Agile team should actively communicate and engage with the project stakeholders. Several ways to keep the stakeholders engaged are

  • Communicate: Check you used the right communication methods with your stakeholder. A phone-call is far better than an email. Communicate often.
  • Engage: Agile methods, by definition provide improved engagement for these stakeholders using two simple mechanisms: visibility and frequency of delivery. Review your stakeholder engagement map. Have you got the right people involved? What do you need from them, and what do they need from you? Are they going to assist you or block your progress? Do you need to influence them to convert your blockers to supporters?
  • Recognise potential issues: Discuss the potential issues with other stakeholders or other senior management, unless it is too late.

All of these help in identifying the participation level of the stakeholder. It also helps in giving the Agile teams an advance warning about the future of the project depending on whether the stakeholder is simply uninterested or just missing. A quick analysis with the engagement steps, helps in averting the future disaster of a failed project and a frustrated Agile team.


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