Business Analysts are required to contribute to a project in a number of ways: primarily by identifying the needs of the target community; building the Communications Plan; defining use case models; and Business Requirements document. In order to do their job effectively a large element of a BA’s time must be spent understanding and managing stakeholders in the project. That relationship can be vital to the success of any project. When engaging a new stakeholder there are always concerns including:
One aspect about working on projects is that every new one brings up new challenges, including the personnel involved. Every stakeholder does react differently, some need daily updates others appear very stand-offish; but none like delays in their project.
For clarity in talking about stakeholders this article discuses the interaction with key decision makers involved in the process, most often the department managers. Of course the every day user has a stake in the success of the project but they are not the focus of this article. From a CIO’s viewpoint the skills they look for in a good Business Analyst include an aspect of stakeholder management and an ability to find a path through the likely problem zones. It is important to facilitate an ongoing communication about how the project is progressing.
Winning support for your projects
By engaging the right people in the right way in your project, you can make a big difference to its success. This is the CIO’s goal for all projects he sponsors. Remember though that before any idea becomes an active project it starts with a concept, a thought “what if we could do…”, often conceived at a senior level in the organisation. Theoretically it should be easy to win support through the opinions of the most powerful stakeholders to shape your projects at an early stage. However not everyone will share that vision.
It is the CIO’s role to gaining support from powerful stakeholders can help build more resources and contribute to project success. For the Project Manager and Business Analyst communicating with stakeholders early and often can help ensure that they know what you are doing and fully understand the benefits, this means they can support you actively when necessary. Anticipate what people's likely reactions, and build into your plan the necessary response that will win people's support.
Stakeholders lacking interest except when project close to implementation.
Many of the management level stakeholders do have a lot on their plate – it can become difficult for them to focus on something that is not of immediate concern. The challenge here is to engage them at the right time – manage that stakeholder’s schedule; don’t bother them with incidentals but do tell them when they need to pay attention; yet make it seem to them as if they are in total control.
Some business managers lack experience running projects. They are primarily concerned about resolving today’s challenges, or those associated with the next week, that is all. Compared to the immediate operational problem your project (due in 6 months time) has little relevance to this manager right now. Yet we know it can result in a major delay for the project. This type of problem in not uncommon and should wherever possible be resolved by the BA, the project manager, and appropriate business managers. Keep the CIO engaged but do not expect them to be a part of the process unless the issue needs to be escalated.
From a CIO’s perspective stakeholder management is important to successful change. Part of this ongoing process is having updated communications records. The CIO will use these from all ongoing projects in planning how they intervene in various meetings they attend. Keep the CIO informed of the salient points particularly imminent conflict areas. Remember the Business Analyst, the Project Manager, and other project team members involved in the engagement each have a valid viewpoint that may need to be represented. Keep abreast of stakeholder activity, update your records accordingly.
Change your communications techniques as necessary to ensure that your stakeholders are kept informed at the right level. One aspect about Agile projects is that the frequent delivery schedule keeps the project fresh and relevant to the stakeholders affected by the iteration or release.
Remember there is one stakeholder who is always interested, the CIO. Your CIO may have an insight into the concerns of the business stakeholder, particularly if that stakeholder is a c-level executive, whom they meet on a regular basis. That insight may assist you in understanding how that person works – they will know how they operate with respect of management meetings.
The principle stakeholders are in conflict with one another.
An example of this: the Production Manager might needs to maximize the factory output, while the Shipping Manager needs a real-time view of the factory’s inventory, even if implementing such a system will decrease factory efficiency a little. Although ‘conflict’ may be too strong a word for most situations encountered. This can be an area where emotions run particularly high. Many problems are conceptual rather than real here. Both managers are working for the same organisation. This type of challenge is encountered in almost every project.
The CIO is seeking from the Analyst, in their role as a change agent, an assessment of each perspective of the problem at hand. Embedded here is normally the path to resolve the specific conflict. The root cause. They should then be in a position to define a solution that satisfies both business needs. First seek to understand before proposing any solution. One aspect to consider here is involvement of the CIO in the process, potentially to assist in mediation or negotiation.
Managing the conflicting demands, particularly where there is conflict between the needs of internal and external stakeholders.
Balancing the needs of internal stakeholders with the needs of external stakeholders requires special attention. Ultimately the project demands alignment of the needs of these conflicting constituents with the mission and goals of the project. This can become particularly complex when the data held is of sensitive nature.
Remember the CIO’s role is to provide leadership across the IT department. Also they must ensure that IT provides business value. They are focused on corporate growth, improving business knowledge, services integration, and managing corporate change. The BA is a core part in achieving these goals.
Author: Peter Giblett CITP, LLB - Strategist, Author, Speaker - Co-Founder & Chief Innovation Officer at P³ Social Media
Peter Giblett , Co-founder & CIO of P3 Social Media, is currently collaborating with organizations to ensure their businesses readiness for Social Media. His background includes leading innovation for Global organizations on Business Intelligence, ERP, CRM, MDM solutions.
Peter regularly contributes to strategic discussions with blogs at IT Toolbox and CIO Perspectives.