Stakeholder interviews are typically conducted at the start of a project to uncover critical background context, in turn creating aligned understanding between client and project teams.
The term ‘stakeholder’ can have different meanings, but in this context, we are referring to client stakeholders i.e those working within the client organisation who may have an input or are directly impacted by the project. The purpose of stakeholder interviews is to uncover deeper insights into an organisation and its products, prior to work beginning. Topics covered often include goals and constraints, technical requirements, product history, as well as the landscape they operate within and the audience with whom they interact with. It’s important to remember that.
Why conduct stakeholder interviews?
1 Leverage a wealth of knowledge
Stakeholders can have a huge amount of knowledge across areas including: product, technical, business goals, industry landscape and target audiences. Whether you are conducting the project as part of an in-house or agency team, reaching out to stakeholders can be very beneficial to provide solid foundational context and direction to the project.
2 Create shared and aligned understanding
Similar to benefiting from stakeholder knowledge, conducting this research is often critical for establishing aligned understanding. It reduces the opportunity for ‘assumed knowledge’ to occur, where ‘obvious’ information is not shared or relayed to the project team. It’s also an opportunity to deep dive into project objectives and goals. In some cases, stakeholders may have varying needs of the project and sharing these back can ensure everyone’s on the same page. Creating this alignment on project objectives is also important to ensure that achievable goals are set that can be effectively measured.
3 Understand and involve different teams in the process
Having input from representatives across teams at the start of the project can help foster relations and also encourage engagement with the final outcome. This is especially important if product changes impact employee workflow and interactions.
Ensure that you are speaking to the right stakeholders – We recommend that you work with the client project team to identify stakeholders with solid understanding across a variety of areas, particularly those that may be impacted by the work or with technical and audience experience.
Tailor a set of questions to be specific to each stakeholder – It’s important to ask the same set of questions to each stakeholder to align feedback on the same topics such as orgnisational and project goals and ensure nothing is overlooked. However, we recommend tailoring a set of questions based directly on the stakeholders experience, whether that be understanding more about technical constraints or customer service tickets, its likely teams will be able to provide more-indepth insights into specific areas.
Provide context to the project – Not all stakeholders may be directly involved in the project team. It’s important to provide background to the work and what you want to achieve in the session to get the most value out of the time.
Be prepared to be surprised – Stakeholder interviews may uncover information that is unexpected. Like with any research it is important to not lead with assumptions and relay any differences back to the project team to discuss.
Whether you’re part of an in-house or agency team stakeholder interviews will help to uncover valuable insights from different perspectives within an organisation. When conducted well, they are a useful way to kick off a project and gain in-depth knowledge of the organisation and it’s product.
So now you’ve conducted your stakeholder interviews and presented back your findings, its time to speak to your users. Stay tuned for our next post in this series, user interviews.
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