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Stakeholder Management

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What Is Stakeholder Management?

Stakeholder management is the process by which you organize, manage and improve your relationships with the people who impact your product’s decisions.  In other words, stakeholder management helps product development teams understand and deliver value to those who have a vested interest in the product. Think of it this way: When this product launches, who will care? Stakeholders can include customers, peers and company management. 

Stakeholder management is often the responsibility of the product development leadership team. Stakeholder management can also fall into the hands of a specialized role, such as product owner or product manager. Stakeholder management helps the team gain a clear understanding of high-impact parties and how to manage their expectations. 

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Why Is Stakeholder Management Important?

Stakeholder management is important because your ability to gain the trust of those who have a stake in your product is the team’s lifeblood. Failure is a matter of when, not if, because product development is rarely (if ever) a straight line to success. By ensuring strong stakeholder management, you help the team build trust that will enable them to take more chances and work through failure. 

Good stakeholder management also helps the team shape the story they want to tell to the organization by getting to know stakeholders and adding pre-objections to what they see. If you are able to present objections before someone raises them, a stakeholder will consider their needs understood. That’s how you builds trust. 

To do this, the team starts identifying what stakeholders are important to the team’s success and building strong working relationships . Every conversation you have with stakeholders helps craft language to tell a story, and that story will help strategy become clear to everyone. 

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Creating a Stakeholder Management Strategy

Stakeholder management can be done in numerous ways but the most important parts of the process are:

  • Understand the stakeholders. What’s important to them? 
  • Determine what the team needs out of the relationship. What’s important to the team? 
  • Create communication opportunities. How often are you going to talk to each stakeholder and what will make each conversation successful?  
  • Talk it through with the team. Ensure there is space to adjust based on the team’s feedback and schedule the time you need to make changes to your plan to manage expectations.

Some good resources to get you started include: 

  • Stakeholder Management — This is a document that will go deep into stakeholder management and why it’s important to create strong relationships with the stakeholders you work alongside.  This article also provides some tools to understand the impact stakeholders can have as you seek to understand how much they mean to your product development.  
  • What is Stakeholder Management? | Definition and Overview — This is a great high-level overview of stakeholder management that includes a workshop on how to do stakeholder analysis. 

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Stakeholder Management Risks and Benefits

Stakeholder management is a great way to keep your product and its values top of mind for various groups in your organization. For team health and trust, this is critical. If your stakeholder management is poor, you can miss out on valuable information and cause folks around the organization to lose trust in your team, even if you have a great product.

If done incorrectly, stakeholder management can cause more distrust than saying nothing at all. This is why it’s critical to build strong relationships with stakeholders. That said, stakeholder management isn’t your only job so ensure you’re not overly obsessed with it. Otherwise, you risk turning your team into more of a political group than a product development one.