Matthew  Williams Matthew Williams | 19 Oct 2023

While it's impossible to eliminate risk in digital projects entirely, significantly minimising it is achievable. Through our recent articles, we've discussed why mitigating risks within critical web projects is essential and five things we've learned to avoid web project disasters

To build on the conversation, we sat down with three industry leaders to bring you their invaluable risk mitigation strategies. One golden thread we noticed in the discussion was the benefit of fully integrating stakeholders throughout all stages of your digital project.

Putting stakeholders at the core of your projects

For this conversation, a stakeholder is anyone with a vested interest in your digital product. This extends beyond just C-suite decision-makers; it includes your end customers and users. If they have access to your digital platform, their voice matters too. 

Conducting thorough due diligence upfront to understand stakeholder needs and experiences is necessary to avoid creating something you assume is necessary rather than addressing a proven gap. Do they require a website, or is a more accurate email sequence needed? When you respond to the wrong data and invest in a platform that falls short, it results in poor engagement and adoption down the road, wasting time, money, and creates a disconnect between you and your stakeholders.

To stay ahead of the curve, prioritise placing stakeholders at the core of your project. Conduct comprehensive stakeholder research into their current experiences with the solution you intend to build. This process will help uncover their genuine needs, what they currently lack, and reveal any blind spots in the stakeholder experience.

By immersing yourself in this feedback loop before committing to a long-term digital project, you'll gain a comprehensive understanding of stakeholder needs well before project initiation, potentially saving a significant amount of time and budget in the long run.

Stakeholding mapping 

To dive into what your stakeholders need, it's critical first to identify who they are. The most effective strategy is through stakeholder mapping, an essential step during the discovery phase that significantly contributes to early risk management. While it's not a revolutionary concept, it's often underutilised and viewed as a mere tick-box exercise. Mapping is much more than that. The true value lies in going beyond surface-level due diligence and revisiting it at various stages.

A comprehensive stakeholder map encompasses all individuals involved in or affected by the project, not just the front-line players. Knowing precisely who is engaged throughout the digital tool's lifecycle allows you to clearly understand various stakeholder groups, their needs, motives, interests, and the potential for innovative solutions. 

Fully integrated stakeholder mapping means employing your map at the core of all project stages, not just at the beginning, although getting the initial phase right is vital.

Keep it dynamic

Your mapping must be as dynamic as your clients'— within reason. 

Stakeholders change, their needs evolve, and organisations restructure. All these factors can be overlooked if you only refer to your stakeholder map in the project's early phases. 

Say you run a recruitment drive midway through a project and suddenly have internal capabilities that you didn't at the start of a project; you might find the new stakeholders, without being a part of the loop, can start making strategy and technology decisions that begin to hinder, not compliment your digital solution and end up impacting the delivery of the project.

Stakeholder changes aren't necessarily a bump in the road and don't always mean you must amend the project scope. Evaluating and ensuring everyone remains on the same page throughout the project de-risks unexpected changes further down the line. 

Continuously plug into your stakeholders

Continuous user testing is critical, not just at the start or end of a project, but at all stages. Getting input from stakeholders is the only way to understand if you've hit the mark, as exemplified by the Royal Shakespeare Company's website rebuild. After asking users from all walks of life, cultures, and generations to stress test the site, their invaluable feedback ensured long-term success, and the same website is being used almost a decade later.

It's easy to think something you've created hits the spot, but what your users think matters. This is something that happened with Xbox when launching Kinect. Despite rigorous testing and data showing otherwise, feedback from gamers was that Kinect wasn't responsive. As a result, Kinect was scrapped rather than forcing the solution. In this case, the user's voice is paramount. If they'd continued and ignored the feedback from gamers, the impact would have been detrimental to customer loyalty and Xbox's reputation. 

In any project, it's crucial to remember that we don't know what we don't know. 

Embedding stakeholders at the core and throughout digital projects eliminates the guesswork. By focusing on customers through research and feedback, you tap into valuable insights from stakeholders directly involved with your platform who sometimes have a more hands-on understanding of your industry. 

Balancing these inputs becomes critical, and it's essential to sift through them to create a solution that addresses as many needs as possible. When you do that successfully and with your stakeholders at the core of every phase throughout your build, you maximise project success while limiting project-changing risks.

Thank you to our insightful panellists for attending our recent "De-risk your web and digital builds and deliver future success" webinar: Jeanette Fiander from HSBC Innovation Banking, Thomas Molenaar from Dechra Pharmaceuticals, and Richard Adams from London North Eastern Railway (LNER). 

To explore further insights and crucial top tips from the rest of the webinar, please click here.