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Preparing for a review of project status with stakeholders – Part 1

A software development team does not exist as a singular team, away from others and free to do what they want. The experience of the team when they are in a very busy mode is some sort of resentment towards those external stakeholders (who are obviously not part of the team) when the external stakeholders want to have an influence in the way that the team is proceeding, or even when the stakeholders just want to know the current status and maybe some details about key initiatives. It can be a hard task for the Project Manager to ensure that the stakeholders have adequate information, and also insulate the team to a large extent from the influence of the stakeholders (of course if there are some changes that are made after discussion with the stakeholders, then the team members will obviously get impacted – we once had a case whereby a major feature was junked because of feedback from the stakeholders, but after it had been fully done; discussions with team members after that decision were a bit flowery),
So why do you want to have a review meeting with stakeholders (especially senior stakeholders) ? Well, typically external stakeholders can be senior people who have a lot of control over the schedule, resources and marketing efforts of the product. In fact, many organizations have an executive sponsor for important projects, where the sponsor essentially has a lot of authority for the team and hence also takes the responsibility for the product (its success or failure). The more revenue that a product earns, or the more potential to bring in increased revenue, the more importance that such projects have for external stakeholders and the greater the need for stakeholders to be aware of the status of the project.
When you look at the status of a project in terms of what you want to present to stakeholders, you seek to answer the following questions:
– What is the current state of the project vs, where you wanted to be
– If there are some critical features in a project, what is their current state
– What are some of the major items that can turn up as risks along with their probability of happening
– One of the most critical issues – what do you think the stakeholders are looking for (in most cases, they are not looking for a detailed status or a straight enumeration of risks, after all that is why they have managers in the team to handle those sort of issues on a day to day basis – they need higher level stuff that could really cause problems in the project, or something that is going great)
– Are there any asks you have from the stakeholders (for example, talking to stakeholders is a great way to present the case if you need more resources on the project, or there are some teams on which your team depends and the schedule of the other team is delayed, causing delays in the schedule of your team and you need some help to shake up the other team).

More details on the exact steps of preparation in the next post (Review of project status with stakeholders – Part 2 – TBD)

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