High-Impact Agile Stakeholders: Important Traits to Look For

Most of us are lucky enough to have worked with amazing clients during our agency careers. Those clients where your key stakeholder doesn’t just pass you a project and stand back. They sell you on it, buy into it, stay by your side for it and celebrate the success with you when it’s done.

But what exactly is it about those people that makes them different from the average stakeholder? How can we evaluate a client early to consider just what their team will bring to a project? Can we build them up to be more aligned before our project gets started?


Agile development requires the role of a client’s team to go far beyond merely commissioning a project. They’re going to be involved as Agile partners for the duration of the project. An exceptional Agile partner not only fuels the process but further elevates it, transforming potential hurdles into stepping stones for iteration.

Understanding and evaluating the potential for a client contact as an Agile partner early offers us options. We can prepare knowing we’ll have a key stakeholder who will champion the process and our work, or we can put safety nets in place to reduce the impact of a less aligned partner.

There are a long list of attributes that distinguish a high-risk Agile client from a high-impact one. Evaluating where your potential stakeholder is on these measures will give you more confidence in their suitability for playing a leading role in an Agile project.

High Availability

Great Agile clients understand the importance of responsive feedback. They’re not just available; they’re actively engaged, ensuring that communication lines are always open. This high availability fosters a collaborative environment where feedback is immediate and implementation is swift, driving the project forward.

Risk Sharing

In the Agile world, sharing risk is not just about accountability; it’s about partnership. Great clients see themselves as integral parts of the team, sharing in the highs and lows. This shared responsibility not only mitigates pressure but also encourages a more invested and collaborative effort from all sides.

Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is contagious. An Agile stakeholder who is genuinely excited about the project injects energy and motivation into the team. This positive attitude helps in overcoming challenges and inspires innovative solutions, making the development process not just productive but enjoyable.

Encourager of Discovery

The best Agile stakeholders are those who encourage exploration and discovery. They understand that the path to excellence is paved with curiosity and are open to new ideas and approaches, even if it means deviating from the original plan. This flexibility is the cornerstone of true Agile development.

Seer of Potential

Seeing potential where others see problems is what sets remarkable Agile stakeholders apart. They approach challenges with a constructive mindset, focusing on solutions and opportunities for growth, which in turn inspires the team to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Flexer of the Iron Triangle

Agile clients know that the ‘iron triangle’ of scope, time, and cost is more flexible than it seems. They prioritize value over rigid adherence to predefined constraints, understanding that the best outcomes often come from adapting to the project’s evolving needs.

Leader of other Client Stakeholders

Simplifying the approval and feedback process allows more time for value creation. Being a single point of contact for decisions and approval improves trust and reduces friction. An effective Agile stakeholder will ensure other client stakeholders buy into the Agile principles and fully commit to the project’s success, fostering a unified and purpose-driven team environment.

A Domain Expert

An Agile stakeholder that brings deep domain expertise to the table enriches the project. Their knowledge and insights not only guide the development process but also ensure that the end product truly meets the nuanced needs of the target audience.

Encourages Access to Users

Providing the development team with direct access to end-users is a game-changer. It allows for real-time feedback and user-driven development, ensuring that the final product is not just functional but truly user-centric. Delight shouldn’t be optional in Agile delivery.

Obsesses Over Detail

While Agile promotes flexibility, the best clients also have an eye for detail. Their ability to focus on specifics without losing sight of the bigger picture ensures that the project remains on track and aligned with its goals. Decisions can be trusted, and direction changes don’t need to be reconsidered later once when more due diligence has been done.

Is Pragmatic

Pragmatism is key in Agile development. Great Agile stakeholders know when to push for perfection and when to compromise for progress. This balanced approach ensures that the project advances efficiently without getting bogged down in pursuit of the unattainable.


Conclusion: Cultivating Impact in Agile Partners

The essence of a great Agile stakeholder lies in their ability to be more than just a client. They are collaborators, visionaries, and leaders who elevate the Agile process. By embodying some or all of these qualities, high-impact Agile stakeholders don’t just contribute to the success of a project; they can redefine what good looks like for your future Agile projects.

But alas, not all stakeholders will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. You might be left wondering what to do if your key stakeholder doesn’t embody many of the desirable attributes. What are your options? Can you still run a successful Agile project with them, and how do you go about ensuring its success?

Before beginning, the risks of failure in Agile projects need be owned, shared or mitigated. There are more articles to come on the subject, but the key to still succeeding with a less aligned key stakeholder is implementing strategies to ensure all of the risk doesn’t land with you. This could mean putting safety nets in place, using a different methodology, asking for a different key stakeholder, educating this stakeholder, or even turning down the project.

Read Next: Less-Aligned Stakeholders: How to Carve Out Success


Are you facing challenges integrating less aligned clients into your delivery approach? Get in touch to see how we can reimagine your client onboarding and project initiation approach into something you know and trust.

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