3 Tips to Engage Stakeholders
One of the most common challenges a business analyst faces is engaging stakeholders in various elicitation activities.
Effective stakeholder engagement is mainly based on human element of awareness, clarity, and resistance to change. This article examines common causes of lack of engagement and remediation steps to be undertaken in the preparation phase for elicitation sessions. Note that some of the topics discussed here may also be applicable when elicitation is being conducted.
Engagement empowers stakeholders to think, feel, and respond with motivation to connect deeper with objective and purpose of preparatory sessions for elicitation. Let’s examine some of the common causes which prevent stakeholder from becoming a partner on the project. These causes make it difficult for Business Analyst to gather preliminary information without much delays and to request stakeholders to do some initial analysis prior to conducting elicitation sessions. Such preparatory activities are necessary to get the best outcome possible from elicitation sessions.
- Resistance to change
- Lack of awareness about change
A change could have been tabled to provide simplified and faster customer experience, to achieve operational efficiency, to address complaints or regulations, to increase market share, etc. This change can result in amendments to business processes, IT systems or both. This usually implies that this change would impact ‘business as usual’ for some stakeholders. If the impacted stakeholders are not aware about the WHAT, WHY, WHEN and HOW of this change, then they are more likely to prioritize their ongoing work over any preparation task or exercise requested by business analyst. Thus, constantly reiterating the business value is imperative for providing clarity and transparency.
- Lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities
Clearly defining roles and responsibilities of individual team member and shared responsibility amongst few team members increases accountability, and results in quicker resolution of impediments and decision-making. Not addressing this leads to confusion, frustration, and possible duplicate effort spend on shared items.
Let’s now try to understand few possible solutions to engage stakeholders.
- Handling resistance to change
As mentioned in preceding section, both technical and social variables of a change must be addressed to reduce resistance towards change. Main responsibility to address this would be with relevant business unit. Business Analyst can support sponsors to ensure information about the change and support measures are properly communicated to impacted stakeholders. When stakeholders are aware about the change, its need, know who can help them in answering questions, how to raise their concerns and how to document issues, they understand change better and may even contribute towards making it more effective and efficient. Keeping it simple, easy and approachable are key concepts. For example, instead of multiple emails and too many meetings on various aspects about the change it could be worthwhile to drive towards specific and limited forums.
- Provide visibility about change
Change could mean new ways of working, new team structure, new process, new procedures, new tools, new techniques, and so forth. Change could be driven due to new strategy, vision and mission of the unit or company. If stakeholders are aware of the reach, priority and impact of this change on unit or company, they will be in a better and informed position to assign priority to it over the other BAU activities. They will not perceive work requests related to the change as burden and would be motivated & empathetic towards reaching the set goals and objectives.
- Clarity on roles and responsibilities
It is important for stakeholders to be aware about their roles and responsibilities to support the change including the degree of active or passive participation required from them. RACI (Responsible – Accountable – Consulted – Informed) matrix is a good way to document and share with the team. Lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities can lead to reduced interest and assigning incorrect priority to tasks.
To conclude, clear communication is key to get stakeholders involvement in various activities encompassing change implementation and sets everyone on the right path. Business Analysts supports in fostering a collaborative and safe environment for the team to thrive and work towards shared goals.