Bringing stakeholders along in the development and design processes makes all the difference in the world, as far as creating a great product goes. Here are the benefits of getting stakeholders involved early on.
1. It’s Much Easier to Meet Client Expectations
Let’s start with one of the more obvious benefits.
The “waterfall” approach is becoming outdated for app development. One of the problems of that approach is that communication is front-loaded. The Business Analyst (BA) sits down with the client and gathers “all” the requirements and then work begins. It’s not until the product is rolled out does the team find out whether they’re really meeting client expectations.
That doesn’t work for us. Thankfully, we have another approach that lets us know whether we’re on the right track earlier on. Rather than being surprised after investing lots of resources into an idea, we’ve built in tons of client micro-interactions along the way. That way, it’s much easier to meet their expectations.
Here’s an example of how that can play out. After the team has done the user research, they meet with the client and discuss their findings and see if you’re all on the same page as far as who the product is for, how the product will be used, and what needs to be accomplished as a result. When the user needs are met, you’re halfway there as far as meeting client expectations.
2. It’s Easier to Take a Customer-Centric Approach
As you just read, when you create customer personas, you can involve the client. That delivers the added benefit of being able to take a customer-centered approach. Getting the stakeholders to hold discussions about the user is key because not all stakeholders come to the table with the user fully in mind. They have budget requirements, timelines, and preconceived ideas of what they think they need.
So again: do your research, conduct your interviews, build your personas, and then show them to the client. And if you do a customer journey, you can show it to the client too, and have another discussion. And once you begin your first wireframes, you can keep involving the client. In fact, get all the stakeholders involved: go back to the end users you interviewed and get feedback from them, too, if you can.
3. You Can Make Faster Decisions
One benefit of all this is that when both sides are talking more often and from the beginning, they’re more likely to become more closely aligned as the product begins to emerge. That means decision-making will be less of a headache.
For example, when you’ve built the customer personas together, you both have a common vision about the needs of the users. Then, when it comes time to decide on visual elements, for example, you’ll all be on the same page, which makes for swift decision-making.
4. You’re More Likely to Gain Alignment When Expectations Change
Let’s be honest: no matter how hard the team tries, sometimes things don’t go as planned. A bump in the road can lead to delays. Maybe budget concerns arise. Granted, teams who have a Business Analyst are more likely to prevent bumps in the road but the development process is organic and thus, vulnerable to change.
When it comes to deadlines and budgets, clients hate surprises — and rightfully so. But when problems are unavoidable, it helps that when clients are involved in the process from the very beginning, they’ll have more of a sense of comprehension about what led to the issues the team is having. As a result, they’re more likely to be forgiving.
5. Additional Features Won’t Totally Derail the Team
When new tasks get loaded onto a project and the team has to deal with them as they roll in, timelines get stretched out and deadlines come and go. Even though it’s not always the team’s fault that additional features got loaded onto the job, they end up taking responsibility for those missed deadlines anyway.
That can really sour things between the team and the client on a number of different levels. The answer is to try and reduce the chances of having to add new features or stack on other additional tasks as the product develops.
When the team has involved stakeholders in the earlier stages of development — ie. developing personas, asking for outcomes rather than features, etc — surprise attacks in the form of new features won’t happen quite as often.
That’s because when you’re developing with user needs in mind rather than working from a list of features, priorities are clearer to everyone.
6. Everyone Will Start Speaking the Same Language
The earlier teams and clients start communicating, the more time they have to develop a common vocabulary. After all, programmers and designers don’t always come to the table with a business vocabulary.
The BA speaks both languages but for an efficient and productive development process, it always helps when every member of the team has direct access to the client. And for that to go well, they’ll need to speak the same language.
Later on, when the big decisions need to be made and you start rolling out the early iterations, that critical feedback is given and received in a language that everyone understands. Feedback that’s given inside an ecosystem that’s rich in trust will be better received, allowing teams to quickly and efficiently move on to the next iteration.
With every new discussion and each iteration, teams will be less apprehensive about sharing their ideas with clients. On the flip side, clients will be more confident about giving feedback because they’ll have learned the vocabulary.
When everyone speaks the same language, each iteration becomes an exciting opportunity rather than a cringe-inducing event that sparks anxiety on both sides.
The Takeaway: It’s All About Building Trust
Every chance you get to involve the client in the development process works to built trust. As we’ve seen, when both sides trust one another, the barriers to communication come tumbling down.
Here at Making Sense, we’re all about building relationships through trust. That’s why, when a client comes to us, one of the first things we do is to let them know things will go better for everyone when someone from their team gets involved in our process. To make that happen, we’re willing to travel on site in order to get to know their team as well as their needs. Likewise, we invite client teams to our offices so we can get to know each other and begin working as a unified team right from the start. There is no “us versus them” because, in the end, everyone has the same goal: a great product that covers all the client expectations and more.