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)