Monday, February 4, 2013

Is the business stakeholder always right?

The customer is always right. Isn't that what they always say?

Well in some people's minds, the stakeholder is the customer for IT staff. So therefore the stakeholder is always right?  

Um, how do I put this delicately enough so to keep the stakeholder's support but still get the job done in the best way for the org. No. The stakeholder isn't always right.

(SIDE NOTE! I completely disagree about calling people customers as IT staff, we should partner with the staff in our org as IT staff, not just take orders)

In a previous job we were working to select a CMS for our website. IT and Marketing collaborated closely to create the RFP, select a group of vendors, narrow the choices and then at the end we voted for our top choice. Seems very reasonable right? 

But the voting was just a way to let Marketing make the decision because they were the stakeholder. IT needed their support to make the website successful. So we let the conversation, decision and process lean in their favor. They know what is best, let them lead and decide.

In the end we loved our design and our website overall. But a month didn't go by without us struggling as a team of IT and Marketing to get the functionality to work for us. We had a tool that limited our flexibility, required many work-arounds and didn't meet our needs. We had repeated releases to try to address the issues, but a few of our problems were a direct result of the choice of CMS\vendor that we made.

Did we do what was best for the stakeholder by not pushing harder to educate or illustrate the challenges we would face?

Many times it seemed like all we did was set us up to be blamed for not being able to make the website work. And for us to retort with, well you picked the tool. Now it wasn't as school playground, smack talky like that. No it was just this hidden, ugh kind of feeling.

So is the business stakeholder always right? My answer is. Lead with a yes, they are right, but some education and push back can go a long way to avoid organizational problems that won't go away. Before a large decision like this starts, clearly define areas of expertise and then let the expert make the decision, not always the stakeholder.

Just my thoughts as I reflect.

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