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8 min read

Identify and manage stakeholders in agile: Tempo tips

Managing stakeholders in agile is the key to a successful project. Learn about the various groups and how to meet their needs.
From Team '23

Tempo Team

Managing a project involves more than just producing deliverables. You must ensure the outcome meets the criteria of the project’s stakeholders.

That may sound simple, but those invested in a project’s delivery may have competing or even conflicting expectations. The project management team must manage those expectations, finding a middle ground that satisfies everyone.

Managing stakeholders in agile is even more critical. Their feedback and buy-in are foundational to the framework’s success, impacting the project manager’s ability to deliver on the agile practice’s seven core principles

To foster a healthy collaboration between various stakeholder groups and the agile project management team, you must clearly distinguish everyone’s roles and needs and develop strategies for effective communication.

Key stakeholders in agile

To develop an effective stakeholder management strategy, you must identify each group, its priorities, and how it interacts with others. Within the agile methodology, stakeholders are divided into two major types:

1. Internal stakeholders: An internal stakeholder is anyone with a vested interest in the project’s outcomes. Sometimes referred to as primary stakeholders, they include:

  • Organization owners

  • Project management

  • The development team

  • Sales and marketing teams

  • Investors

  • Vendors and suppliers

2. External stakeholders: Sometimes called secondary stakeholders, these parties do not work directly with the project team and may not be aware of product development. However, the project impacts them nonetheless. These groups may include:

  • Regulatory bodies

  • Competitors

  • Users

  • Consumers

  • Special interest groups  

You must tailor communication strategies to each group’s needs and determine the best channels to gather feedback.

Once you’ve identified key stakeholders, you can further subdivide the internal groups to better understand their dynamics and priorities. Agile project management demands clear differentiation to ensure the team addresses unique concerns promptly and aligns decisions with organizational goals. 

The stakeholders most involved in an agile project include the following:

1. Project manager (PM)

Within the agile framework, the project manager is responsible for planning, organizing, and controlling tasks to produce the intended outcomes within an established schedule. They work with stakeholders throughout development to define a project’s requirements, scope, and goals based on customer needs and business objectives. They act as a liaison between the developers and other stakeholders, facilitating communication and ensuring alignment.

2. Product owner

The product owner represents the client. They are the stakeholder responsible for communicating product strategy and maximizing the project’s value. They work with the PM to provide context for project goals, ensuring they mesh with the corporate vision, strategies, and objectives. Together, they establish the project roadmap, prioritizing the product backlog so the team understands which task to address first and why. 

3. Development team

In some versions of agile, developers are organized into scrum teams tasked with delivering the project’s outcomes. Scrums use their expert estimation skills to review the product roadmap, business strategy, and other criteria before selecting which user stories from the backlog to complete during a two- to eight-week sprint. Their input allows the project manager to establish an efficient and realistic schedule based on the development process, project scope, and available resources.

At the end of each dev period, the scrum master conducts a sprint review with the rest of the team. They work together to identify lessons learned and potential improvements to the process, increasing efficiency and productivity for the next round. 

4. Project sponsor

Project sponsors are stakeholders invested in the project’s success rather than the development process. This group provides the necessary funding and resources to deliver outcomes according to the project scope and expected results. They will also bear cost overruns should the project deviate from the plan.

5. End users

A project’s success is ultimately determined by whether end users are satisfied. Therefore, engaging with these stakeholders is vital to test the minimum viable product (MVP) and generate initial feedback to improve user experience before a full product release. 

A successful project hinges on stakeholder input. It impacts developmental focus and direction, which determines project scope and priorities. Key stakeholders also influence which backlog the project team addresses, ensuring the scrum’s activities support business goals.

Stakeholder engagement is also vital for maintaining alignment and cohesion among project groups. Without it, the agile scrum and other stakeholders with vested interests risk misunderstandings regarding deliverables. 

Tips to manage stakeholders in agile

In addition to identifying key players, effective stakeholder management requires you to establish a strategy at the beginning of work to maintain engagement throughout the project’s lifecycle. 

Your stakeholder management plan should perform the following functions:

Ensure transparency and regular communication

You must communicate with each stakeholder group to ensure an agile project’s success. Your strategy should include consistent updates on project progress plus mechanisms to gather and communicate feedback to team members. 

Stakeholder input provides insights and suggestions into a project’s evolution, allowing dev team members to make informed decisions regarding backlog refinement. Should market shifts lead to changes in corporate strategy, team members receive timely notice, allowing them to quickly pivot and adjust to new demands.

Use agile tools for collaboration

Agile scrums, especially those in distributed teams, collaborate better when using tools that facilitate engagement and communication. Tech that enables real-time communication, document sharing, and interaction builds transparency by offering visibility into outstanding tasks, project progress, and timelines.

Account for stakeholder preferences

Each stakeholder group will have its own communication and management requirements. For example, unlike the project manager or product owner, the sponsorship group won’t require an itemized weekly progress update. A monthly work overview will suffice.

To keep each group engaged, tailor your management efforts to their specific communication preferences. Otherwise, they may tune you out. 

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Winning stakeholders’ trust for agile methodology

Change is rarely easy. If you’re introducing agile practices, stakeholders may be hesitant to buy in, especially if they’ve enjoyed success using other methodologies. These suggestions will help you become an agile coach and encourage others to embrace the framework:

1. Align agile project management with your organization’s strategy

Transitioning to agile is challenging when stakeholders are stuck in old ways. Here’s how you can help them shift to an agile mindset:

  • Encourage stakeholders to adopt agile practices. Forcing them will result in frustration and push-back.

  • Find ways to blend agile and legacy practices so stakeholders don’t confront unfamiliar processes all at once.

  • Present the business case for the transition. If you show stakeholders how agile will increase revenue, productivity, or efficiency, they’ll be more likely to get on board.

2. Raise the level of the agile conversation within your organization

Don’t throw stakeholders into the agile deep end. Start slowly, engaging them in conversation by:

  • Using agile methodology privately within your team. Discuss the effects and benefits with stakeholders during project retrospectives.

  • Documenting improvements brought about by agile, using benchmarks and metrics to inform project reporting. 

  • Invite stakeholders to join you at local agile events to learn from and network with professionals willing to share their experiences.

  • Conduct an agile information session in your organization’s “Lunch and Learn” series.

3. Propose new metrics for progress and status

Collaborate with stakeholders to establish new metrics and tools for measuring and reporting project progress and success. Here’s how:

  • Examine your current reporting process to identify gaps. For example, revise and replace an internal report that’s rarely consulted or raises more questions than answers.

  • Create reports and metrics iteratively, updating your tools based on insights generated by stakeholders during sprint reviews. 

4. Focus on improving project delivery

Business success hinges on continual improvement. Encourage agile adoption by linking it to solving a problem or rescuing a product feature from development limbo. If you can demonstrate agile’s worth, you’ll secure stakeholder attention and support.

5. Provide examples of projects using agile and its benefits

Companies can’t thrive if they cling to outdated practices. Show stakeholders that agile is the next step in corporate evolution by:

  • Supplying links to articles and blog posts outlining the benefits their competitors’ enjoyed after switching to agile.

  • Sharing requests for proposals (RFPs) mentioning agile as a project management requirement.

  • Demonstrating how agile implementation changes industries and impacts the competitive landscape. For example, an increase in job openings that require agile experience directly correlates with the U.S. government’s adoption of agile practices.

  • Presenting customer queries about whether project management methodologies are agile or how the organization supports transparency and collaboration within the development cycle.

Customer demand for agile practices provides a convincing argument for adopting the framework.

How Tempo can help

Stakeholder management within agile may seem labor-intensive – even slightly intimidating – but it doesn’t have to be. With the right tools from Tempo, you’ll have everything you need.

For example, the Strategic Roadmaps tool builds a roadmap of your project plan, creating stakeholder visibility while communicating your overall strategy. The solution also helps your team capture user feedback and plan what product backlog items to tackle next. 

Tempo’s Custom Charts for Jira facilitates the customization of your dashboards to evaluate team delivery rates, capacity, speed, and other crucial metrics. With a few keystrokes, you can create individualized reports, updating various stakeholder groups according to their unique needs and requirements.

Best of all, Tempo applications are Jira-enabled, meaning teams can keep their favorite project management tool as they transition to an agile framework.