Agile Project Management Process 1.1–Stakeholders Identification


In the Agile Project Management Process Grid devised by John Stenbeck in his book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”,” the very first process listed under the Initiating process group and the External Stakeholders Engagement knowledge area is Process 1.1 Stakeholders Identification.

1.What is a Stakeholder?

A definition of a stakeholder is “a person or group that can impact a project or can be impacted by the result of a project”. Let’s compare that to the definition of a risk, which is “an event or condition that can impact a project either positively or negatively.”    So, a stakeholder could be thought of as a human risk factor, and can jeopardize a project in the same way that a risk can.

However, in the case of a risk, you cannot reason with a event or condition, such an earthquake or flood.    You can only proactively prepare to lower either the probability of its occurring, or its impact if it does occur.    In the case of a stakeholder, you have the possibility of engaging the stakeholder in order to influence his or her level of engagement on the project..

Stakeholder identification as a process is less formal than in traditional management, but the categories of engagement seem to be the same, namely:

  1. Unaware
  2. Opposing/Resistant
  3. Neutral/Independent
  4. Supporting
  5. Leading (project champions)

1.Unaware

The first category should be obvious–many stakeholders get involved late in the project because they were simply not aware of its existence until late in the project, and are just now waking up to the fact that the project will effect them in some way.    So stakeholder engagement is the first process in agile to make sure that all people who SHOULD know about the project DO know about it.

2.Opposing/Resistant

The next four categories are all levels of engagement for those stakeholders who are now AWARE of the project.   Opposing stakeholders feel that they, or their group, will be impacted negatively by the project.    You must either explain why this is not the case, or explain how the project plans to mitigate this impact.

3. Neutral/Independent

Those who are not affected by the project can at least be persuaded to stay out of the way, or possibly even support the project, since they have nothing to lose by its success.

4.  Supporting

Those who support the project are those who will stand the benefit from it, even if indirectly, such as with technical, logistical support, or interest groups.

5.  Leading (project champions)

These are usually the customer or client, the end users, management, partners, and vendors.

Project champions are important to have as allies because they can help you persuade stakeholders in the other groups.

Once you have identified stakeholders, you need to find out their power and interest levels, meaning their power to affect the project and their interest level in the project.    In traditional PM, these power and interest levels are used to determine the stakeholder engagement strategy in one of four modes which are listed as follows:

  • Low interest/low power:   monitor
  • Low interest/high power:  keep informed
  • High interest/low power:  keep satisfied
  • High interest/high power:  manage closely

In agile, focus instead is on engaging with the stakeholders to the extent that they can contribute to the details of a solution to the problem posed by the customers.    By NOT focusing on stakeholders in this way, traditional projects often suffer by delivering what they thought the customer specified only to have the customer say it wasn’t what they wanted.

What the customer wants on day 1 of the project may not be what the customer wants later on in the project.  This is due to one of three factors.

1.  Sometimes it is because something gets lost between the requirements the customer has in mind and the technical characteristics of the product that are created to fulfill those requirements.

2. Sometimes it is because the competitive landscape changes–for example, when a commercial rival to the customer now has a new product which the customer wants to outdo or has come out in the market with the same product that the customer had in mind.

3. Sometimes it is because the internal political landscape changes–for example, when the customer now wants to take the project in a different direction because of a change in the management’s vision for the company’s future.

For that reason, close, consistent collaboration with the key stakeholders is key and focused on the stakeholder’s needs.   To translate those needs into tangible deliverables the project can create, there are two tools and one technique used, which are the topics of the next three posts.

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