Gienna Gaeta is a Project Manager at Clarity Partners, overseeing many of our longer term, city-based projects. In this article, she discusses why you should always consider the feedback of your stakeholders as a necessary part of any successful project.
The stakeholders of an organization have a vested interest in all of the business’s decisions. When making updates to primary assets, such as an organization’s website, the involvement of stakeholders can make or break your project. In order to best align the feedback of these key members, stakeholder meetings are essential. Let’s take a comprehensive look at who these people are and the importance of these meetings as part of a project.
Who is a stakeholder?
Let’s run with the previous example and say your organization is going to update their website. In this case, stakeholders would usually be individuals who are paying for the venture or who directly work with the website. Depending on the type of organization, here is a list of potential “stakeholder” roles:
- Deputy Director
- Chief Information, Financial, Executive Officer
- Project/Program Manager
- Marketing Manager
- Marketing Analyst
- Analyst (most likely the person(s) working with the site)
These stakeholders are pulled in at multiple points on the timeline to stay informed and provide insight on whether the project is going according to plan or not.
What are the types of stakeholder meetings?
So the client has determined they want to update their website and the stakeholders we need to keep involved. Now what?
The first major stakeholder meeting is called the kick-off. It includes all major stakeholders and is used to outline the project’s purpose, goals, and scope. It gives the project team a proper way to introduce themselves and explain what to expect over the course of the project. This includes how involved each stakeholder will be and how much communication they should expect as a result. The core team may only meet once every so often to review bigger updates. However, there may also be a week-to-week team that meets as such to make incremental decisions about the website as it develops.
The stakeholders now know what to expect and when to expect it. The next step is to conduct stakeholder interviews.
Generally, your stakeholder interview questions should allow you to gather insight about the client’s goals/perceptions, message and user engagement, content, administration, and vision. Here are some typical stakeholder interview questions:
- What do you believe are the three main reasons people visit your site?
- Do you seek to increase interaction or feedback with your website visitors on the new site? If so, what information are you seeking from visitors? How will you utilize this information?
- What are the three most important items related to your department’s web presence that you want to be easily accessible and visible on the new website? Why?
- Explain the current process your staff utilizes to add or edit content on the existing website.
- What is the vision for your department in the next five years? For example, will any new program or service areas be added?
Ideally, stakeholder interviews are conducted one-on-one, which is ideal so honest feedback is noted. Answers to questions like these can be used to help update and improve the requirements in the project plan. Collecting valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the website can help to turn pain points into solutions, resulting in more efficient business processes.
Additional Stakeholder Meetings
Further meetings are held anywhere on the timeline after stakeholder interviews and before go-live so stakeholders can stay informed during the development phase of the project. They may also result in decisions to change the way the project is going. The stakeholders’ opinions are of utmost importance, making these meetings necessary for the direction of the project.
How many stakeholder meetings should take place during a project?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. Every project is dynamic. Every project presents a unique set of challenges. The point is to only conduct essential interviews when needed. Too many may lead to a loss in focus, but too few may lead to larger, costly changes to the site later on in the project. Assessing the needs as closely as possible helps determine the right number of meetings to conduct. In our experience at Clarity, about five interviews for a medium sized project and ten for a larger project are the sweet spot.
What is on the agenda of a typical stakeholder meeting?
Here are a list of things you might see on the agenda in a stakeholder meeting:
- Project timeline
- Milestone tracker
- Milestone status
- Top Action Items
- Issues & Risks
- Next Steps
This list is meant to only include high-level items. Again, the point of these meetings is to stay focused while also mitigating risk. You want to make sure this is happening during the entire timeline of the project.
How stakeholder meetings pay off: two examples.
Here at Clarity, there have been many instances of stakeholder meetings improving project results.
When the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) decided to re-platform their website from iDev (American Eagle’s proprietary CMS) to Drupal, Clarity was tasked with providing suggestions on how to maximize the out-of-the-box Drupal functionality. One of the problems stated in the stakeholder interviews was that making last minute changes to board meeting notices was nearly impossible. However, when the CHA migrated to Drupal, we were able to fix this problem by giving the correct permissions to the people who needed to publish these edits immediately. This “extra” feature would not have been solved if not for the stakeholder interview.
To learn more about the CHA Replatforming Project visit https://www.claritypartners.com/cha-replatforms-website/.
Stakeholder meetings also helped us add additional value to our website redesign project for Pace Suburban Bus. While planning our user tests with the core Pace team, we decided to seek advice from the Pace ADA Advisory Committee. With their help, we were able to create the accessibility user tests as we were building the site. This helped us gain insight and understand the importance of thinking about riders with disabilities as part of this process.
Our recent case study highlights all of the details regarding Pace’s new website: https://www.claritypartners.com/case_study/right-place-right-time/
The conclusion? Conduct stakeholder meetings.
The addition of stakeholder meetings undoubtedly improves project outcomes and results. It allows the project team and the client team to collaborate. It keeps the client team informed while building trust and empowering them to help guide the project. Most importantly, it ensures the outcome for the organization and its stakeholders end up being exactly what they want.