Stakeholder management is an essential aspect of any product owner’s life, and it is also one of the most commonly asked product owner interview questions.
After all, a product owner has to routinely engage with multiple parties involved in product development, sales, and implementation. The team may comprise of developers, testers, sales personnel, and managers, etc.
Thus, it goes without saying that a product owner has to spend significant time and effort on managing these different stakeholders. If you have lived through this experience, you would know that it can become challenging at times.
But remember that nothing is impossible, and there are ways to maintain harmony in your team without deterring from your goals.
Here is how you can manage these parties effectively.
Keep Them Informed
When you work in a team, clashes are bound to happen. For instance, developers and testers may have conflicts because of their jobs.
In most scenarios, conflicts occur because people do not have complete information. When the gates of information are closed, people are bound to make their own opinions based on the data that they have.
Thus, it becomes essential to bring them together on a common platform to share product updates and other key details.
While it may not be possible to engage every individual, you must constantly communicate with the Scrum Master and the Team Leaders.
Every senior individual in the ecosystem is responsible for some crucial aspects of the product. Moreover, they have controls that are necessary for the success of the product.
As you engage and keep them in the loop, you have better chances of winning their trust.
It is also essential to repeat the product vision and the steps that you want them to take. Repeating it will ensure that everybody stays on track.
Develop An Understanding Of The Interest Of Your Stakeholders
Every party is different, and it is natural for them to have diverse interests. While it comes naturally to some product owners, it is a learning curve for others.
When you know what your stakeholder is interested in, you will have meaningful conversations with them.
For instance, your operations team may not be interested to hear bout the intricacies of product development. Similarly, your sales team may not want to know which features failed during testing.
When you acquire a thorough understanding of different departments, you will be able to cater to their needs. You will also be able to talk their language and give them responses that they understand and appreciate.
Even when there is a common platform, you will be able to gauge where they are coming from. You will know if there is a persistent problem that leads to impulsive reactions.
By knowing their pain points, you will be able to steer the conversation towards valuable outputs.
Allow Your Development Team To Connect With Other Stakeholders
During product development, it is usual to get several suggestions from the other parties involved.
For instance, the sales team has a better understanding of the market pulse and will give recommendations to make the product better.
As a result, a product owner often becomes an intermediary between the other parties and the development team. A lot of effort goes into this to-and-fro of communication.
Most of the time, the suggestions are not feasible. At times, it is because of the simple fact that the product’s design doesn’t allow for it.
To avoid such scenarios and any ongoing conflict, product owners ought to connect the development team with the other stakeholders every once in a while.
As you formalize such meetings, you will observe more advantages than you could have imagined.
Apart from communicating what’s feasible or not, such discussions can also result in better, unique, and user-friendly features. Moreover, the development team will understand end-users much better.
You may even end up developing a market-leading product.
Identify Your Most Important Stakeholders
When you are the product owner, you have a tonne of work on your plate. There are roadmaps to be made, progress to be measured, and product backlog to be managed.
If you give equal time and attention to all the stakeholders, your product may suffer. It is advisable to identify your most crucial stakeholders and the ones that have the least impact on the product’s success.
For instance, your customers and the end-users of the product are perhaps your most important stakeholders.
As you spend more time with them and understand their needs, you can give them something useful and build a loyal customer base.
After you prepare your list, try to focus on the most important stakeholders and give them more time. It is similar to prioritizing your to-do list in the morning.
At times, you may even have to lay down your priorities, and it is totally alright.
An added tip is to learn to say no. It is one of the most crucial traits that no best product owner certification will teach you. It becomes essential to maintain harmony between the other stakeholders.
Act As An Owner
Finally, there will be times when you will have to put your foot down. You can do it tactfully and let everyone know that your word is the final word.
As a product owner, you hold a crucial position in the organization. The success or failure of the product, in the end, will become your responsibility.
You cannot let the interests of other stakeholders to get in the way of your vision.
At times, you may also need to pull up the teams to cover up the backlog and get them to speed. However, you can do it with tact and lots of empathy.
Let your teams know that you are there for them and will always support them with their problem areas. However, they need to stick to your plan and support your vision.
When you bring them together, make clear agreements to avoid any future discrepancies.
As a product owner, you need to find your own ground, and at times, it is easier said than done.
By communicating effectively, setting up free information flow channels, and engaging your most crucial stakeholders, success is a given.