Effectively solving any complex problem typically involves satisfying the needs of a diverse group of stakeholders. Stakeholders will typically have varying perspectives on the problem and various needs that must be addressed by the solution. We'll define a stakeholder as
Many stakeholders are users of the system, and their needs are easy to focus on because they will be directly involved with system definition and use. However, some stakeholders are only indirect users of the system or are affected only by the business outcomes that the system influences. These stakeholders tend to be found elsewhere within the business, or in "the surrounds " of the particular application environment. In yet other cases, these stakeholders are even further removed from the application environment.
For example, they include the people and organizations involved in the development of the system, the subcontractors , the customer's customer, and outside agencies, such as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or other agencies that interact with the system or the development process. Each of these classes of stakeholders may influence the requirements for the system or will in some way be involved with the system outcome.
An understanding of who these stakeholders are and their particular needs is an important factor in developing an effective solution. Depending on the domain expertise of the development team, identifying the stakeholders may be a trivial or nontrivial step in problem analysis. Often, this simply involves interviewing decision makers , potential users, and other interested parties. The following questions can be helpful in this process.
In our example of a replacement sales order system, the primary and most obvious users were the sales order entry clerks. These users are obviously stakeholders in that their productivity, convenience, comfort , job performance, and job satisfaction are affected by the system. What other stakeholders can we identify?
Other stakeholders, such as the sales order entry supervisor, are directly affected by the system but access the system through different user interfaces and reports . Still other folks, such as the chief financial officer of the company, are clearly stakeholders in that the system can be expected to have an effect on the productivity, quality, and profitability of the company. Lest we forget, the IT director and members of the application development team are also stakeholders in that they will be responsible for developing and maintaining the system. They will have to live with the result, as will the users. Table 5-3 summarizes the results of the stakeholder analysis and identifies the users and stakeholders of the new sales order system.
Table 5-3. Users and Stakeholders of the New System