Mastering the Design Process

Defining Stakeholders

Paul Boag

Paul Boag

Mastering the Design Process

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The "Defining Stakeholders" Lesson is part of the full, Mastering the Design Process course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul discusses defining the stakeholders role in the design process to help avoid irrelevant feedback and micro-managing and provides a checklist summary. Three roles of a stakeholder are finding problems, championing the business's needs, and defending the users.


Transcript from the "Defining Stakeholders" Lesson

>> So before we move on completely from this process, I do wanna take just a moment to pause and talk about defining the stakeholder relationship. How we work with our stakeholders, and by extension, our own relationship, our role, and what we do as designers. So, this is so incredibly important because, let's be honest, most stakeholders provide a lot of irrelevant feedback to the design process, or they attempt to micromanage the design.

And so it can be really helpful at the very beginning of a project to define what their role is and what you want them to achieve within the project. So there are kind of three things that I define as a client's role in a design project. Number one is that their job is to find problems and not solutions.

I explained this to them right up front. And the example that I give is, let's say you're looking at a design that I've produced, and you're not entirely happy with it. Maybe it's aimed at a preteen girl audience, and I've used a lot of corporate blue in it or something like that.

Your desire as a stakeholder will be to come back to me with a solution. Can you change the blue to pink, right? Which is maybe a perfectly good solution to the problem, but it doesn't educate me as to what the underlying problem is. And it kind of stops you getting value for money out me as a designer because if I don't understand the problem, I can't suggest alternative solutions.

So if you come to me and say, I'm worried, the preteen girl audience isn't gonna like the corporate blue, that's something I can work with, and I might solve it. You can say, also, shall we change it to pink? That's fine, you can express an opinion. But I might come back and go, well, actually, instead of changing it to pink, let's add, I don't know, more unicorns and fairies or whatever it is that preteen girls like, I don't know, I don't have a daughter.

So but you get the kind of idea that defining their role within the relationship works really good. I also say that their role is to champion the business needs. They exist really to say, well, this isn't going to work for the business or this is what we're trying to achieve, that kind of thing.

And then finally, I do suggest that their role is to defend the user. Now, to be quite frank, my role as a designer is to defend the user as well. But by actively giving it to them as a role and saying to them that upfront and repeating that through the project, it just reminds the client not to forget the user.

If they're made responsible for the user, then they think about the user. So just take a bit of time to define the relationships up front will make an enormous difference. So really, that's all I wanna say about that kind of overall, how to run a design project, and how to make the different stages work, and all of that before we get into the very specifics of how to approach the design, etc.

So I thought it might be helpful to have a little checklist summary cuz I know I dumped a lot of content on you in a very longer length of time than I thought, but still a lot of information in the short time. So, this is really a checklist before you start doing a design project, right?

These are the things that I would advise you to do. One, define both your role and that of the client, that will make an enormous difference upfront. Second, outline your product process, even if you don't use the project process that I've presented and you use a slightly different one, that's fine.

But make sure you clearly explained to the client what's gonna happen, when it's gonna happen, and specifically why that is a good approach, all right? Then a greater set of design principles that can aid your decision making. It will be something you can come back to time and time again through the project to keep the client or stakeholder on track.

Make sure you carry out as much user research as you can within the limitations you're operating with. And as a minimum, turn that into empathy maps, you might want to do customer journey mapping and other things as well. But that depends on what you've got available. And then agree on that list of key performance indicators to define success because you can come back to that later as well.

And then finally, identify and speak to as many stakeholders as possible. Search out those hidden stakeholders, right? So that senior manager that you don't normally get to talk to, try and find access to that person, and find out what their agenda is and draw them into the process.

If there's an unofficial stakeholder, my nephew says, that kind of stakeholder, then find those and engage with them as well.

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