You are not a stakeholder, you are a product owner

Companies make many mistakes when provisioning and maintaining software and applications, but one of the most fundamental is the definition of “stakeholder” in a project.

Most company employees who are anointed with this hallowed title think it means at worst “someone who can demand things”, at best “an expert on the subject”. But almost none of them really understand that as a stakeholder, their responsibility is not just to tell others what should be included in the project specifications.

It also doesn’t help that the project sponsor or primary contact within the company is usually assumed to be the person responsible for the project’s release. Some companies even specifically have product owner roles for this purpose, but they are more of a steward than an owner, dealing with the creation and maintenance of the software rather than deciding its scope and worksheet. road. These product owners are probably more likely to be product managers in reality. By this I mean that they manage a portfolio of tools and systems essential to the functioning of the company or its interactions with customers.

Commissioning a major change

Let me use an analogy. Imagine the product is a puppy. Or at least it will be because you don’t have the puppy yet. Maybe you have an old dog that had a wonderful life but is past its prime. In order to keep your home life on a level playing field, have a loyal friend who is always happy to see you, take long walks with you, and fetch the newspaper from the porch after playfully barking at the delivery guy. terrified, the time will come when it must be replaced.

So you ask dad to buy a new puppy. You can buy a rescue dog, but you can’t be sure of its habits and whether it will be comfortable in your home. So you choose the option that allows you maximum control: by starting over with a young dog, you can train it as you wish.

Here is the first problem. The rest of the family wants a say in what kind of puppy you get – after all, they’re going to be sharing a home with the new pet, it’s just that they’re comfortable with the new addition at home. Someone doesn’t want him to be too tall, another not too short, definitely not yapping and naughty, most agree on the one who doesn’t shed too much or too often, probably short haired, the one who will be playful but not overly rambunctious, one who will sound the alarm if someone suspicious tries to enter the house, but not a dog that won’t stop barking… and let’s not forget this you want out of all this too.

You browse a few reputable breeder kennels looking for what you want, probably finding likely candidates in a few of them, then it’s a matter of haggling over which breeder sells you the pup, but eventually the deal is done and a puppy has a new home.

Now, despite all the agreements to date about what the puppy should be, the reality of bringing him home, breaking him in, training him, walking him, feeding him, etc., it all starts to fall apart. install and, unsurprisingly, everyone is looking at each other to take responsibility for all of this because “I was only asked for my opinion, not to take care of it”.

And so it’s up to dad to do all the work, try to get the dog to walk, eat the right things (not the couch!) at the right time, play with her, teach her to obey commands, the two basics and the most fun, and not going to the bathroom in the corner of the living room!

Then when you try to get her to come to you, to turn around, she won’t always do what you expect her to. When she wants to go for a walk, you either ignore her or only take brief trips around the block. And when she urinates in the corner of the living room you do your best to ignore her until dad notices and then you stay away when he gets mad because no one said anything, and even worse nobody did anything about it, and there’s no way you didn’t spot it, you people live here too and it was all of you who wanted the ruddy animal in the first place !

Who owns the change?

In other words, “dad” is the company, or at least its commissioning committee/board, “breeder” is your technology consulting firm that provides the “pup”, your new software or application . All the things you’ve asked of your pup are your operations and features record, others in your home, other departments in the business that have an interest in the application from a point of view or another. Puppy behavior is how your software performed when it was built or shipped, and peeing in the corner is that big deal that accompanies all software tools when they ultimately weren’t built properly and cause a problem. major. And your refusal to get involved beyond asking for what you want… is just that.

Relinquishing responsibility for a technology solution being developed to solve a business problem is exactly the same as being in a family that has a puppy and never walking it, feeding it, or putting it away afterwards. him. You also own it. You have chosen its basic characteristics, but it must develop to arrive at the right place. It’s up to you to get involved to make it what you want it to be and be part of the solution when things don’t go as planned rather than just rolling your eyes at another project that didn’t not delivered correctly.

If the company takes your brief and you don’t stay involved, it’s not their fault that the app or software tool doesn’t turn out the way you hoped. If you don’t stay involved in building, maintaining, and improving the product, you can’t complain because it doesn’t do what you want it to do the way you expect it to. Then, when it doesn’t do its job properly, you are partly responsible for it by not having been responsible for it at all when you really needed it.

Success requires dedication. And the property.

Too many stakeholders leave it up to the commissioning team to take ownership of a technology project, saying they’re too busy with their “real work,” or that they’re not the technicians here. You don’t have to handle a dog all day to help train it, nor do you have to be a professional dog trainer to figure out how to get your dog to be what you want. whether. In fact, professional dog trainers will tell you that a misbehaving dog is the fault of the owners, not the dog.

You need to take the time to get involved in your technology projects. You must be available when help is needed to clarify and resolve issues. You need to keep an eye on it and let everyone know when there’s a problem they haven’t spotted, then work with them all to find a solution. Ultimately, your business leaders, the C-suite team, won’t blame you if you’ve taken the time to make sure the business and its new software tool are running as smoothly as possible. But you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll be mad at you if you let things escalate and get so bad it pees in the corner of the meeting room.

You are a product owner, not a stakeholder.

About Byron G. Fazio

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