One of the 48 Laws of Power, as stated by Robert Greene - an American Author, is to always know who you're dealing with. You cannot assume that different people will react the same way to your strategy or plans. That's why it's important to gather as much information about a person that either support or contradict your beliefs about them when dealing with them.
Profiling is an essential aspect of managing relations with stakeholders. In the financial industry, banks are encouraged and even mandated to know who their customers are (KYC). Business Analysts in turn, should know exactly who their stakeholders are, and what they're dealing with at every point in time. Analysts should never assume that they already have a thorough understanding of stakeholders. Profiling becomes even more critical if you’re an analyst dealing with stakeholders from different parts of the world.
Identifying stakeholders is one thing; profiling them is a different thing altogether. Profiling stakeholders involves an appraisal of their characteristics, attitudes and behaviours.
There are 2 aspects to profiling:
Demographics: This has to do with understanding who your stakeholders are by considering their age, gender, location, marital status, education level, nationality and the like.
Psychographics: This involves describing why your stakeholders act the way they do by considering their values, interests, lifestyle, attitudes, aspirations and other psychological criteria. For example, profiling might reveal that you have stakeholders who are price-sensitive and do not believe in spending large amounts of money on software solutions or you may find that you’re surrounded by technology laggards who are slow to adopt technology. Having such knowledge beforehand is key to preparing a pitch that will help sell recommendations to the business.
So, why exactly is stakeholder profiling important?
- Can help the analyst in making important decisions on how to sell business change to the organization and how best to communicate the features and benefits of recommendations
- Can help the analyst understand stakeholder needs, priorities, requirements, and their relative influence/power over the project
- Can provide vital information about each stakeholder which could help the analyst develop a strategy for system acceptance. For example, profiling can reveal stakeholder concerns, problems and needs which may be further refined into requirements
- Stakeholder profiling can help the analyst identify gaps in their knowledge of stakeholders which would lead them to seek and acquire the necessary information.
There’s no doubt that a clear understanding of one’s stakeholders can help to foster the delivery of more acceptable solutions.
So what tips can you take away for preparing a stakeholder profile?
1. Don’t rush through the profiling phase – the information you encounter may become extremely critical to the success of your project
2. Keep updating the stakeholder profile information. It should be considered a living document that captures the current and evolving needs of stakeholders
Here's an article that contains questions to pose when gathering information for stakeholder profiling.
Stakeholder profiles do take considerable time to prepare. Analysts should however, avoid the temptation of jumping to conclusions about stakeholders or making unstated assumptions.
Stay tuned for steps on how to develop a comprehensive stakeholder profile.