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This section covers initial alignment around the goals, constraints and high-level approach and feeds into research.

Before starting on research proper, it is essential to first build alignment between parties and agree on the high-level scope.

This is a set of defaults for teams to use, but is not mandatory if teams have good reason to do something different (see What this is and is not).

Work in progress

This section is not yet complete. It contains some useful pointers but does not cover many of the key techniques used to build initial alignment.

Understand the opportunity

Start by understanding and quantifying the business opportunity.

  • Is this a new service or does it replace an existing service?
  • What similar or competitor services exist, and how will this one be different?
  • What does the organisation want to achieve through this delivery what are the objectives?
  • How will you know you are on track to meet each objective?

Map your stakeholders

It is likely that input from, collaboration with, or approval from, other parts of the customer organisation will be essential to a successful delivery. Form a stakeholder map as described here to track these dependencies, and keep it up to date. Consider anyone you may need to work with to understand your users, choose technologies, validate deliverables, and support live operations.

Identify stakeholders and roughly categorise

Visualise the people or teams you depend on for a successful delivery with a stakeholder map using the axes interest and influence.

Stakeholder map

  • Stakeholder: (in this context) anyone at the customer organisation who has an interest in or influence over the delivery.
  • Interest: how much the stakeholder cares about the delivery.
  • Influence: how much of an effect (positive or negative) they can have on our ability to deliver outcomes or the success (real or perceived) of the delivery.

Identify the basic approach to take with each stakeholder

Identify basic approaches for communicating and engaging with each stakeholder, based on where on the map they sit:

Stakeholder engagement

  • Low interest: will respond best to brief and/or infrequent communication and engagement.
  • High interest: will want more detailed and/or more frequent communication and engagement.
  • Low influence: try to serve their needs through standard communication and engagement (e.g. iteration reports, regularly scheduled demos, or planning sessions).
  • High influence: it is worth investing in the stakeholder to ensure they use their influence to help us achieve our goals. Take the time to understand how best to communicate and engage with them, and consider tailoring these communications to their wants and needs, including bespoke presentations and individual sessions.

Devise a plan for key stakeholders

Stakeholder impact map

Use a variation on Impact Mapping to identify which goals each stakeholder could impact, how they could impact it (positive or negative), and what action you will take to mitigate or amplify that effect.

Although the focus here is on stakeholders, it is still best to anchor the process on your goals. It is easier to think about who could influence a particular goal than which goals a particular stakeholder may influence.

Identify the risks

What obstacles could impact this delivery, from inside or outside the organisation? Some of these will make their way into the risk log, but some may mean that the initiative should not even be started or potentially not yet. When you have learned enough to do so productively, conduct a pre-mortem exercise to uncover these risks and identify how to mitigate them.

Draw a risk map, using the axes likelihood and impact.

  • Risk: a thing that might happen, and which would negatively impact our ability to deliver our goals.
  • Likelihood: the probability that this thing will happen.
  • Impact: the severity of the impact this thing would have if it happened.