How to Deal with Internal Stakeholders

The Web Strategist deals with many internal customers
A Web Strategist is an web decision maker, in context of this blog, they are often within large corporations. They have internal customers that range from marketing, product teams, product marketing, support, PR, advertising, IT, and a plethora of external vendors. For many web strategists’ much of your effort won’t be dealing with users or your web team of developers and designers but with internal stakeholders. I’ve seen a lot of this when I was corporate web manager, and I’d guess that over 50% of my time was spent dealing with requests, problems, prioritization of internal stakeholders. (I managed an enterprise intranet, extranet, and aligned a disparate enterprise intranet)

Your internal customer: the stakeholder
What’s a stakeholder? someone who stands to benefit or lose from your direct actions, as a result, they are your internal customers. Stakeholders can make your life heaven or hell, from their requests, or to they way they give feedback to your management chain.

Think of yourself as a chaperone
The way to manage stakeholders is to think of yourself as a chaperone, for your stakeholders, you oversee them, guide them, and direct them where they need to go. This is somewhat of a challenge, as if you’re overbearing and deny them their requests, they’ll escalate to their management (their parents), who will talk to your management (your parents), causing unnecessary headache. It can go the other way as well, if you bend to their will, they will dominate your time, and the user experience (your external customers) of the site could suffer if your put business needs first –rather than balancing the user with business needs.

How to Deal with Internal Stakeholders:

Develop great relations with your internal stakeholders
Make yourself accessible to these teams, and build relationships to understand their business needs and drivers and try to get ahead of their requests, learn to ancipate their needs.

Establish clear roles
Sadly, stakeholders will often grab the first person in the web team they see to make a request, either a small web update or a project with scope creep. Assign someone on your team to facilitate requests, and a role to properly scope projects so you’re always setting expectations.

Make the process very clear
Tasks, Projects and Programs all have different life cycles, roles, processes and requirements, you’ll need to spell out very clearly to your stakeholders how each of those are different, and set expectations.

Develop a ticketing and project system
Deploy a system that will both accept incoming requests, this will help free up team resources, help see all the requests from one view, and help to keep track of many requests. This system will eventually be a great way to report to your management team of your fulfillment, and great for customer satisfaction reporting. Thanks to Adam for the submission in the comments.

Lead the prioritization, but involve stakeholders
You’re always going to have more requests than resources, unless of course your company is headed the wrong way. Make it clear what your current resource threshold is and prioritize projects. As new requests come in, you can have stakeholders work with you to move budgeted resources around –forcing them to prioritize their own requests. Of course, you’ve the final say, and should be empowered by your management to lead this forward with conviction

Train stakeholders
Depending on how your website is setup, some of your stakeholders may be encouraged to publish directly to the website, you’ll need to educate them on how to use tools, analytics, and other know hows to be successful. Train stakeholders on how to understand web analytics and web reports –empower them to take ownership over the content they have on their site. Teach them to fill out a requirements and scoping document, saving your team time and ensuring they’ve fully thought out the request.

Make your schedule and reports available
Let all stakeholders know of what your team is working on, establish an internal calendar with project definitions available, including web analytics reports so business stakeholders can work with them

I could go on and on with other recommendations for success, but instead, I encourage you to leave nuggets in the comments. I’ll add great ones to this list and fully credit you.

Related Resources

  • The many Web Strategy Constituents: The external forces that shape your website
  • The Three Web Activities: Task, Project, and Business Programs
  • A Complete List of the Many Forms of Web Marketing for 2008
  • Video: Alastair Duncan on Corporate Website Leadership (3:30)
    • http://www.elastcbrands.com Tim Dempsey

      Jeremiah: great post and a topic which is important way beyond just web marketing. I have been advocating aggressive measurement, and transparent access to the measurement system by stakeholders, across all of marketing’s activities. In my experience, it completely changes the nature of discourse at the executive team level within the company. Instead of fingerpointing and standoffs, sales and marketing can engage in far more meaningful dialogues if programs aren’t producing expected results. With agreement about what the targets and goals were (because of the measurements and transparency), the discussion is about WHY (was the target poorly defined, the message non-resonant?).

    • http://adjustafresh.com Scott

      Chaperone analogy is dead on, and it certainly is a balancing act. I think that the secret sauce to becoming a successful “chaperone” is to build trust among your stakeholders.

    • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

      Thanks Scott, at first I was going to suggest parent, but they I realized that both the strategists and stakeholders have parents –managers.

    • http://www.adamgershenbaum.wordpress.com Adam Gershenbaum

      Excellent post Jeremiah. I agree trust is huge amongst stakeholders and your analogy to being a chaperon is accurate.

      One of the things that works well for me with stakeholders is that we have a great project management system using http://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/. I can submit a ticket and be the ‘reporter’ and provide a description and category that the request should be under. Then provide a brief flow of what it is that my team is looking for from stakeholders and what technical skill sets are needed to complete the project. I also submit a tentative deadline. I attach all assets and documents relating to the project and I can either assign the project to someone who oversees development or assign it to a project manager who can best determine who to assign the task to. What’s great about the process is that the time line of the project is all captured in one thread. All stakeholders are added as ‘watchers’ and can see developments as they happen. Later on even months down the road there will always be a transcript of how the project went down. Much better to me than conference calls and email threads. I often find myself being the guy training other stakeholders how to jump on board and take advantage of new tools and technologies like the project management tool we use but to me it is an investment into making everyone’s life easier and keeping all stakeholders on the same page. There is nothing worse than coming to the conclusion of a project and somewhere along the line a disconnect happened and a key stakeholder is not in the loop on a decision that was made.

      Secondly my team has a twice weekly conference call where we report everything we are currently working on and what we are planning including links to all open tickets for project in the management system. Notes are taken and the minutes are sent up to the key stakeholders for review. Thsi is also where myself and team discuss all new ideas, leads, and technologies we are thinking of implementing into our social media projects.

    • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

      Adam

      I agree, creating a ticketing system is a good idea, Ill append this to the post and credit you.

      I’m not however for more meetings, couldn’t this update be done in an email or internal blog?

    • http://www.adamgershenbaum.wordpress.com Adam Gershenbaum

      Jeremiah,

      I am not for more meetings either haha! It used to be DAILY. Lately I try to have one actual meeting and then the second scheduled meeting of the week I type up an agenda as an update from the last meeting and beat the call to the punch with an email. Then the call ends up being like 10 minutes instead of 40.

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