Getting a Jump Start on Stakeholder Profiling

Stakeholder or user profiling involves eliciting, analyzing, and organizing information about key stakeholders involved in your project.   Most of us are pretty good at working with and involving our end users and senior managers.  It’s those other stakeholders that sometimes get lost in the shuffle and come back to bite us later.  It’s never too early to identify and involve your project stakeholders – the “in your face” folks, the “hidden users”, the “for or against you” folks and all those people and personalities that come into play.  After all, your end users are a subset of this larger stakeholder group.

I strongly recommend you identify and profile your key project stakeholders early and often during the project life cycle. The three major components of stakeholder profiling are:

  1. Identifying and classifying the different types of stakeholders for your project
  2. Understanding the needs, priorities, communication requirements and activities for each type of stakeholder relative to your project
  3. Defining and describing the stakeholder concerns, needs, problems, and activities as they perceive them—in order to derive the project requirements and achieve a successful end result.

If you profile your key stakeholders, the information that you use comes from a sample size of representative users, their supervisors, and their direct reports within your project’s  identified stakeholder organizations.  Here are some suggested topics to discuss:

  • The types of stakeholders involved with this project and how they relate to one another and to the system
  • Activities performed by each type of end user and the business processes these activities are part of
  • Needs of the end users, relative to their existing jobs, and the information they need to do their jobs
  • Needs and requirements of stakeholders relative to the new system
  • Understanding the existing work flow and existing activities

Here are some more specific things I might ask in order to understand those existing work activities and get a jump start on my profiling activities.  It is essential to get these folks identified so you can get them involved as quickly as you can.  Some starter questions for folks include:

  • What is your department and official job title and description?
  • What job function do you perform within the organization?
  • Within the scope of our proposed project, what activities do you currently perform?
  • Do you have additional job activities that we need to be aware of?

When you are digging deeper for each activity defined by an end user or key stakeholder, try asking them about:

  • How much time do you spend performing this activity as a percentage of your total workday?
  • What is the priority of this activity?
  • What do you like best about the activity?
  • What would you add?
  • What would you change?
  • Are there any constraints on this activity we should be aware of?
  • What information is needed to perform this activity? How is it used?
  • What information do you provide to others?
  • Where does the information come from?

When you are defining your requirements, be sure to take a closer look and do a little profiling on your key stakeholders, too. Iterative and incremental requirements development results in project requirements that are (or should be!) defined, specified, and agreed on. Let’s make sure we have the right folks involved to the right degree to make this project work worth the doing.

Susan Weese

Business analysts are increasingly becoming the critical liaisons between business and solution development (oftentimes IT), so they must communicate and relate with equal effectiveness throughout all levels of an organization. Download this free White Paper to learn how to address common business analysis mistakes.

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