Stakeholders sit around boardroom table in boardroom with laptops open

When creating a new piece of software or taking part in a project, selecting the right stakeholders can make or break the success of your work. While the users and managers are often first thought of as stakeholders, anyone who is involved in any part of the project can be critical.

When it comes to decision-making and ensuring the project runs smoothly. Here are reasons stakeholders are so important to software development.  And what to look for when selecting stakeholders for your next project.

What is a stakeholder?

A stakeholder could be anyone who is involved with your project. This could be the direct user, a manager, an auditor, an indirect user. Basically anyone who touches the project during its development. Regardless of their part in the process, anything they do could influence the final product.

While we often focus on the expertise of those involved, there’s more to consider when choosing stakeholders. The influence of stakeholders is occasionally overlooked by developers.  They tend to focus on their own requirements and their immediate team.

As the industry has such different ideas, some developers avoid introducing additional stakeholders. What’s important is that it’s not the number of people you bring into aproject.  It’s the way they participate and engage in the work. Choosing the right people for the task can mean a successful project for all.

Why stakeholders are needed

When working within your software development team, you may be wondering why you would want to bring in additional stakeholders. While project stakeholders often say what they like and don’t like, they don’t necessarily express this in a manner easy to translate to the project. A good development team will work with stakeholders to communicate about the project.

By asking for regular feedback from stakeholders, the end results will be more in line with their expectations. Presenting them with options is key to success and avoids further work upon completion. The main stakeholders are the ones you are trying to please in a project, so their feedback is crucial.

Selecting the right stakeholders

Good communication is key to a successful project. Selecting the right stakeholders is the first step to achieving good communication. The project sponsor should be the main contact for the start of this process. They will know what the aim of the work is. This helps you to find people who are aligned with your methods and staff the project properly.

If you aren’t sure what stakeholders need to be added, the project sponsor will be able to give you a clear indication of what’s expected. Stakeholders could include developers, designers, project managers, analysts and more. You’ll also want to identify internal and external end-users.

Internal end-users are those within your company or the sponsor’s company.  External ones can be harder to identify, as they could truly be anyone. Lean on internal end-users for feedback. They’ll be able to guide you towards what external end-users would expect.

They can give you a clear indication of what they expect and how it should look once completed. Finally, there are other groups with special interests. These may be individuals working on one aspect of the development project.  Their responsibilities will vary depending on the project and your needs.

What a good stakeholder is

While you obviously want stakeholders who are knowledgeable within your field and have relevant experience to bring to the table, that shouldn’t be your only consideration. While experience with software is crucial, their work ethic and commitment should be considered.

You’ll want everyone involved in the project to be united under a common goal.  This can only be achieved if stakeholders are willing to give their time to attend meetings. They need to be willing to offer feedback and participate instead of just being present.

Try to find active stakeholders who want to work closely with your team. Understand the benefits of adding stakeholders to your project and the part they play in making it successful. Finding high-achieving stakeholders with plenty of relevant experience is good as long as they have time and energy to commit to your project. Communication skills are also essential.  Everyone will need to provide feedback in a productive manner for collaborations to work best.

Stakeholders play a huge role in the creation of any type of software and are an integral part of your development team. While you may want to minimise the number of people involved in a project, this isn’t always the best route to success. Adding more qualified individuals who can offer insight and feedback to your software, means it’s bound to succeed.  And please your end-users once the project is completed.

If you’re thinking about launching your own project, speak to BSPOKE Software.  We have developed many exciting apps and web portals which you can read more about here.