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This chapter is from the book

Understand your stakeholders

Tensions were high. We were about to start shouting at each other.

It was what John calls an “active” meeting. The team needed to agree on the themes for a major new product release.


Laura, the product marketing lead, wanted several complex capabilities that many CIOs had specifically pointed out as important to their business.

Chris, the business development manager, wanted simpler configuration and deployment tools because business partners were getting tired of the time it took to get into production.

Don, the chief architect, thought we’d lose our technology leadership position if we didn’t move to the latest engineering approach.

Bernie, the client support lead, pointed out the opportunity to lower support costs through some tracing enhancements.

This meeting was supposed to lead to a consensus view of the product content. Instead, it was a free-for-all.

What would you do?

The starting point of an outside-in development project is to understand who all of the stakeholders really are. You’ll find that they constitute a varied group: some outside your firm, but some inside as well.

Stakeholders can be end-users, the clients who make purchasing decisions, the IT staffs who deploy and operate your product, and business partners who take on a range of work from outsourced operations to application development and integration.

They also can be your architects, service teams, product managers, and more.

Once you have a clear view of each of your stakeholder groups, you will need to consider their goals. Goals may vary considerably across a diverse set of stakeholders.

Only then can you determine which goals to address, and how to do so.

When in doubt, think about what will make your stakeholders heroes. You must understand the environment in which your clients operate as well as the business environments in which your software will be deployed.

Focusing on stakeholders and developing a clear understanding of their goals is the very essence of outside-in thinking. It allows you to maintain focus throughout your product’s development, and it makes clear whom you must satisfy to achieve business success.

As for our example of the “active” meeting? Outside-in development techniques would have turned it from a debate of conflicting goals to a brainstorming session of which stakeholders you’d address, and what each of their goals might be. A few Venn diagrams later and you would have had a visualization of where things map well and where there is conflict.

Clarity on the whiteboard, less tension in the room.

We cover this in depth in Chapter 2, Understanding Your Stakeholders.

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