Stakeholder management is one of the important aspects of business analysis. In this blog, I want to share my learning on how to be influential with senior clients/stakeholders as a business analyst. I usually follow the “Five Ws and One H” format, which forms the basis of “Problem Solving”, but have modified these questions to fit the topic.
- Who is a senior stakeholder?
Stakeholders are people, groups, vendors or organisation who participate in the projects and have different levels of involvement and interests. They also are likely to be impacted because of the project. Senior stakeholders are those who possess the highest authority in the project environment.
- Where to find them?
Stakeholders can be in the office, on the field, in the factory or anywhere else. When a business analyst is assigned to the project, he /she needs to identify the stakeholders and conduct stakeholder analysis. The BA has to use multiple ways to find them.
Get the list of stakeholders involved in the project from the manager or supervisor. Talk with people to find the decision-making authorities, executives, third parties and end users. Also in IT projects, there are instances where the software systems interact with other software systems and hence it becomes necessary to find who owns these and check if they are impacted by the new initiative.
A simple method to capture this information is via Stakeholder Analysis Matrix. This matrix should contain all the required details about stakeholders involved in the project. It helps in identifying senior stakeholders and estimating their levels of interest based on how it would impact them. That will in turn help to prepare before interacting with them.
- When to influence the senior stakeholders?
Influencing stakeholders from all levels (junior till senior) is an ongoing activity, which starts from day one of the project. Early start to this activity is always beneficial to the project.
- Why is it needed to influence them?
Business analysis is a critical part of a software project. In complex projects with diverse stakeholders, their different motivations might affect the delivery of the project. The BA needs to quickly resolve all types of issues and lead the way. The BA also has to keep them interested. However BAs don’t have any formal authority. Hence they must be influential enough to exercise that power informally.
- How to be influential with senior stakeholders?
Now to successfully influence the senior stakeholders, I follow the below techniques:
- Communication techniques
Get to know how they want to be communicated. Some might prefer one to one meetings, emails or even phone calls. Understand which method would help. Prior to your interactions, do the homework, anticipate how the discussion is going to be and be prepared. Listen to them, take notes, analyse, be clear in communication and show willingness to act upon the points communicated by them. Ensure that desired response is received at the end from the stakeholders.
- Focus on high-level details and avoid technical jargons
Senior stakeholders might not understand or be interested in technical details involved in the project. It is always good to give them the high level details and if they require more details then provide them. Focus on knowledge and facts.
- Be confident and trustworthy
Be confident and show interest at all times and in all situations. There might be instances where stakeholder might come up to you and ask you for information. Hence keep your data handy. Senior people appreciate if you provide counter arguments, differ in opinions or are frank to tell that you do not have sufficient knowledge to answer right away. It makes them believe that you mean what you say. Provide evidence as to why your approach is better one if asked. Keep communications channels open, listen to what they say and be transparent. Always keep them informed on the status of the project, risks in the project, deadlines and results. This way it helps them to trust you.
- Deliver commitments
Take responsibility of the project and stick to what has been committed. Show results to prove your competence. This shows that you care about the stakeholders and care about delivering project successfully.
- What are the benefits of being influential?
- Benefits to the stakeholders: At the end of the project, stakeholders are satisfied and their requirements are implemented. They get what they need, have positive experience with project delivery and they get business value in terms of results.
- Benefits to the business analyst: Benefits are on both personal and professional ends. It helps BA to perform better and it boosts confidence, builds credibility and leadership qualities. Further helps in professional success by creating positive relationship with the stakeholders and in creating brand value.
Finally, I would say that influencing senior people would require a planned approach and but keeping in mind “Keep it Simple and Sincere” principle doesn’t make this look so difficult.
Supriya Joshi Bio – Supriya has recently joined IMA as a business analyst. She is an IT professional with more than 7 years of experience and has worked on banking, automobile and healthcare domain projects. She has worked with diverse stakeholders from several countries and demonstrated good business analysis skills. She possesses good analytical, problem solving, and communication skills; always strives to deliver quality products. She likes travelling and exploring new places, cooking and spending time with family.