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Time Poor Stakeholders

by Business Analysis,

Thorough analysis and research activities rely on effective information gathering techniques which begins with understanding the underlying context.
An efficient method of gathering reliable information and data for this effort can be achieved by the virtue of establishing answers to the below type of questions:

• Who – to understand the person or situation it is about
• What – for gathering details about what transpired
• When – to collect the timeline details
• Where – for identifying the location where it occurred
• Why – to identify and reason for the development of the core problem
• How – to understand how the situation occurred

For Business Analysis activities, the questions outlined above can act as a powerful malleable toolset to be utilized across a variety of situations that range from complex, moderately simple, to even primitive.
Below is an example of a real time case study at BAPL where this was effectively applied.
Experiences with time-poor stakeholders
BAPL was engaged for a credit transfer and approval project by an esteemed University Partner who had experienced an exponential growth in the recent years across the volume of student enrolments, addition of new courses, and introduction of campuses & infrastructure. The project visions were:

  1. To introduce and generate improvements in the systems and processes within a streamlined credit application for enabling students to have greater control over their application process.
  2. Invest in a more comprehensive precedents database by developing and ensuring the ongoing maintenance of the credit database/precedents.
  3. Reduce staff involvement, intervention, and manual efforts.

Participation was crucial to driving success of the service and thus the expectation was that the involved staff would be heavily committed and make themselves available for completing their tasks. However, since they were preoccupied, unavailable, or very busy- it resulted in collaboration difficulties. We experienced several challenges in meeting the relevant stakeholders, setting up workshops, and getting their approval or validation for the content of the different artifacts.
Additionally, we also needed to communicate with new stakeholders as the previous person in charge of this liason had changed positions during the course of the engagement.
A collation of the above issues ignited to BAPL team on site to ask themselves, “WHAT is the most effective way to communicate with such time-poor people?”

To answer this question, we needed to further analyse WHO the key stakeholders were.  Due to the wide scope of work, a large number of stakeholders from a diverse range of teams were involved in the project. They hailed from management, teaching staff, and academic groups across domestic and international student management units.

During initial meetings in the early phases of the engagement, we were able to understand the personality types of the various stakeholders present and also clarify their preferred form of communication.

We found that identifying and establishing communication channels with stakeholders in their preferred form of communication was highly favourable. Communication methods were categorized based on two factors: Peak Times and Personality Types.

Peak times refers to the stakeholders’ busy hours (when they won’t be available), and in certain cases some were never available.   Identifying the peak times aided in understanding the WHEN for organising a suitable time for host meetings.

In our engagement some stakeholders preferred virtual meetings and were willing to accommodate us in their busy calendars by juggling meetings around.

Due to the remote nature of the service, coupled with virtual work environment culture (because of the COVID-19 Pandemic) meeting in person was not an option. Thus, the question for identifying the WHERE component was not applicable.

On the other hand, personality type refers to the character, temperament, or disposition of the stakeholder. Identifying this was useful in understanding their preferences and establishing HOW to communicate with them- whether that was via emails, online teams meeting, etc.  In our case a favourite method of communication, amongst the group of stakeholders, was virtual meetings, Teams chats, or email messages.

To ensure the virtual mode engagement was successful and productive – we prepared a list of questions or comments to be sent via Teams or email for the purposes of clarification and removal of ambiguity. The key criteria driving productivity was to set a deadline for the collection of responses.

This type of communication works best when you are looking for approvals, feedback, or detailed information from the stakeholder and don’t need to collaborate to receive or extract it.  The advantages of subscribing to the application of this method are:

  • easy access to recorded documentation; and
  • quality of detail within the comments, feedback, thoughts, and perceptions provided by the stakeholder.

In our initiative, one of the identified stakeholders was the only available Subject Matter Expert (SME) for a specific process related to creation of VET (Vocational Education and Training) units in the system. This particular stakeholder did not like virtual meetings and didn’t use the chat feature on MS Teams either. Their preferred method of communication was email messages only and we thus interacted with the said SME by submitting a detailed list of questions and comments, requesting responses for the same within two days. We also sent follow up emails as reminders to submit responses for the requests raised. They were more comfortable with this form of communication, and we respected their preferences.

Another approach to make work easier and faster for time-poor stakeholders was to have an approved list of their preferred delegates. By asking for a delegate(s), we could accommodate time for interviewing alternate or additional subject matter experts. This aided in mapping a more accurate workplan by considering additional time and effort involved (where applicable) for reviews in the early stages of the project.

This exercise also resulted in reducing the loss of time for getting feedback and approvals when primary stakeholder were busy or unavailable.

This finally brings us to the WHY:
Except for workshops sessions – which must be collaborative – stakeholders must always be provided with the option to choose their preferred communication method. This allows us to practice respect and empathy while making it easier for our clients to build trust with us as BA service providers.

To make communication more effective and less challenging with time-poor stakeholders, identifying their favoured communication method in addition to asking them to assign a delegate(s) for their role in the early stages helped us drive better and smoother communication and improve collaboration outcomes with them.

The outcome of this approach resulted in:

  • Saved time and cost;
  • Optimising the business analysis schedule – focusing on higher value items;
  • Improved structure and organisation – better stakeholder experience; and
  • Quality business analysis deliverables and outcomes.

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