Stakeholder engagement is incredibly important to successful business analysis. Without engaged stakeholders who care about the project and understand the work you do as a business analyst, you will work harder to discover the right requirements.
You’ll face issues like stakeholders not showing up to your meetings, unanswered questions about requirements that delay your project, and finger-pointing when issues inevitably surface late in the project.
Today’s question comes to us from Natasha, who asks:
“I have secured 5 min of time with my key stakeholder (cornered them in the corridor). They never worked with a BA before. What are the 3 most important things/ideas I should convey to them in order to start building some meaningful engagement?”
This is an important question and I answer it in today’s video.
For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:
Why Stakeholder Engagement Is Important
Today, I want to talk about the important concept of stakeholder engagement, specifically, how to cultivate those relationships with your stakeholders as a business analyst. When you do this, they tend to be more willing to answer your questions, show up to your meetings, review your requirements document, and your entire business analysis process goes much more smoothly. You want to pay attention to investing in those stakeholder relationships as an area where a little bit of investment has a huge result long term.
We’re going to talk about three different things that you can do to do this. Specifically, this question came from Natasha. Natasha said, “Hey, I’ve cornered my stakeholder. What three things should I share with them about business analysis?” Well, I’ve got the answer to that question, Natasha. I think it’s going to be a little bit different than you might think.
Stakeholder Engagement: Step 1 – Share What You Do
The first thing you want to do is share what you do, briefly. So, just kind of let them know,
“Hey, my name’s Natasha. I’m the business analyst on your next project. This is what I do as a business analyst. I’m going to be the one making sure we’re solving the right problem, writing the requirements documents, and facilitating that communication between business and technology.”
That might not be your exact description, but make sure you have a one-liner description about what you do.
Stakeholder Engagement: Step 2 – Ask a Question and LISTEN to the Answer
Now, you might think you want to drill into the detail there. My advice is, actually, different than that. From there, you want to ask a question. Make this a conversation. You don’t want to corner your stakeholders. You want to engage them in conversations. What you’re doing here is demonstrating that as their business analyst, you’re going to ask them questions, and you’re going to listen to the answers, and it starts with that very first conversation.
So, ask them a question.
- What’s your biggest concern about this project?
- Or, what’s the biggest benefit?
- What’s the juicy thing that we could accomplish in this project and what would that mean to you and your department?
Get them talking about the project, and then paraphrase back what you hear to show that you understood their answer.
Stakeholder Engagement: Step 3 – Share How You Can Help
That’s probably going to create an opportunity for you to share something else about what you do, but now you can share in the context of how you can help them with their concern or their project, or their benefit. When you do that, you can now drill in a little bit deeper about what it is you do as a business analyst.
“Oh, hey, you mentioned that on your last project a lot of things changed at the last minute and the solution wasn’t nearly as effective as you had hoped. One thing I can do when we get to that part of the project is really engage you in the changes that come up and make sure we’ve got our business process documented well and facilitate that kind of communication. Would that be helpful to you?”
Again, you’re asking another question to keep this very conversational.
We talked about sharing what you do, but briefly. We talked about asking questions and creating a conversation, and then following up with another specific example of what you can do and the context of how it’s going to help your stakeholder.
Stakeholder Engagement: Step 4 – Get Commitment for the Next Step
The last thing that you want to do is create an opening for a conversation. Again, we don’t necessarily want to corner people and make them feel like, “If I go to Natasha’s meeting or Laura’s meeting, I’m never going to get out. She’s just going to keep telling me things and asking me questions and I’m never going to get to leave.” You want to get them to engage with you and get what would be called a micro-commitment about the next step.
“Hey, it’s been really great having this conversation. I’m glad we got to connect. I’d love to share a little bit more about what I do or talk a little bit more about the concerns that you have about this project. Can we schedule another meeting to talk about this further?”
“My next step is going to be to schedule a group discussion and I want to make sure that you’re involved, so look out for that email if you think you’ll be able to attend.”
You just want to get that next commitment about the next step. You want to commit to following up or acknowledging their time in some way. You can also, then, follow-up after the fact, which is going to demonstrate that you are the kind of person that follows through on your commitments. Through that thread of the conversation, you’re demonstrating a lot of different things about how you’re going to show up for them as a business analyst, and you’re showing them instead of telling them. You’re asking questions and you’re listening to the answers, and you’re showing that you understand.
You are, also, making a commitment, asking for their permission, following up on that commitment, following up on what you said you’re going to do. That kind of approach is going to build a solid foundation for a strong stakeholder commitment.
So, Natasha, you’re in a great spot that you’re thinking about this ahead of time. For anyone else listening in, think about one thing you could do this week to cultivate stakeholder engagement, a better stakeholder relationship, and really engaging those stakeholders in the business analysis process and in your project because it’s going to make your projects run more smoothly. It’s going to make it easier for you to do the things that you need to do and get the decisions made that are going to make your projects more successful.
Figure Out What Your Business Users Really Want [Free Template]
One additional way to engage stakeholders is to be sure you don’t jump right into nitty gritty functional requirements before you understand their business process.
Business process analysis is often the very first technique used by business analysts when we start learning a new domain or analyze the scope of a project. Today, I’m offering my Business Process Template to you (absolutely free of charge!).