Understanding who our stakeholders really are, and how their stake changes over time

When we use the term stakeholder in software development, we often take too narrow a view of who our stakeholders really are. Classic stakeholder management defines a firm’s stakeholders as those people and groups that influence, or are influenced by, the activities of the firm.

To successfully ship a product or deliver a service, it helps to understand who has a stake in our product, our services, and our organizations. It also helps to understand that the nature of that stake or claim changes over time. Applying principles of stakeholder management helps our agile and lean organizations to be successful.


If we understand who our stakeholders are, and when their claim takes on a higher degree of salience, then we can, among other things:

  • Better plan for how and when to engage with the diverse community of stakeholders that influence, or are influenced by, our products and services
  • Avoid surprises as we innovate, design and ship products
  • Reduce risk, or at least identify risks that we might otherwise miss
  • Take a more holistic view of the people involved in our product development, or service delivery
  • Avoid the need to revisit issues because the right people were not involved in the decision-making process
  • Create whole teams that create and deliver the right products

We can use 3 attributes (Power, Legitimacy, and Urgency) to create a simple model that helps us to understand our stakeholders’ salience. We can apply this model from multiple perspectives, e.g.,

  • from the perspective of the managers of the firm
  • from the perspective of the product team
  • from the perspective of the product itself
  • from the perspective of users of the product

Open Jam at Agile 2010

At this Open Jam session at Agile 2010 we will

  • Explore who the wide variety of stakeholders are in a product development effort.
  • Attempt to understand these stakeholders in terms of Power, Legitimacy, and Urgency, and how that helps us know which stakeholders we need to pay attention to
  • Attempt to understand how the salience of stakeholders changes over time, by looking at different stages in the life of a product, and therefore understand that we need to pay differing levels of attention to different stakeholders at different times.
  • Anything you want to talk about…


We will use a simple map that correlates stakeholder engagement with time, highlighting various phases of a product’s or feature’s life cycle.

Using a whiteboard, flip chart paper, markers and stickies, we will work together to understand which stakeholders have a stake at different times in a product’s life cycle, and how that stake changes (or has the potential to change) over time.

Where and when

Open Jam session at Agile 2010 on Thursday August 12th at 5:15 PM in the Genie Open Jam area.