Less-Aligned Stakeholders: How to Carve Out Success


Once your client induction process is complete, you’ll need to make a decision on whether their next project has a key stakeholder that’s going to be high-impact. With those two key stages in the bank, it’s time to evalute the best way to move forward.

The options below are not intended to be a definitive list. Indeed I can imagine a rewrite of this article or addition of other options in the future. What you will be able to take from reading these thoughts however is the number of ways you could move forward (or not) with a client who isn’t ready to—or won’t—consider your purely Agile delivery approach.

Right, let’s dive into some less-Agile options!

Proceed anyway, with caution

Your first choice is actually just to run the project using your Agile delivery approach anyway. A brave way forward.

This sounds like something you’d be a fool to do, but you know your clients and your abilities to bring them into the world of Agile better than anybody. If you believe you can educate them during the project then this could work for you. The risk however is that you end up with a client who’s both frustrated by the process and doesn’t feel like they’re getting what they need from you.

First educate the client on the benefits of Agile delivery

You would need to absorb the cost of this additional work, or perhaps get the client to fund it. You would also need to find the time to include education before the project starts.

My approach is often to evidence how flexibility can still return on a list of requirements, or even features, but gives the option to shift from a broad focus to a deep focus in any area where we see real business value. We of course need to discuss and define what business value actually means for the project first.

Trial Agile with them

Often a project can be broken down into area or pieces. That’s exactly what we would do if this was being run as a purely Agile project, so no sweat there.

If you can agree with the client on what to break off, how much of their budget to invest in the trial, and how you’ll measure success, then this could be a go-er.

You have lots of flex here. Just one example would be to offer a discount or benefit in kind if they then decide to deliver the remainder of the project in the same way.

Agile delivery with critical requirements list

If a client likes the idea of Agile, but they’re unable to put down their long requirements list, it may be a case of selecting the critical requirements—through a negotiation—and stating them as expectations of the project. Think of it as a client comfort blanket.

The risk mitigation here is that Agile flexibility will need to be with the condition of priority changes being aligned to reviewing of the requirements list. If the client decides to spend more time (we’re assuming fixed time/budget as is almost always the case) on something, then another item may have to be simplified or removed completely. You’ll need to have agreed that process upfront though. Always.

Considering Alternative Methodologies

Agile is not the only method of delivery. It’s unlikely you’re running an Agency where you only have one delivery method, and it’s purely Agile. So you’ll probably have worked on projects where the budget, scope and deadline are fixed. You’ll be taking all the risk here, because you’ll be estimating based on the details in the specification.

It’s often wise to either tightly define requirements—using a paid process or workshops—before beginning, or get the client to agree a balanced approach where information is unclear ing the documentation, or requirements come to light during the project, or are simply missing completely.

Clients are most comfortable in Waterfall land because they percieve to be handing over a perfect set of expectations, a fixed amount of cash, and a date when it will be delivered. Often the regular failings of Waterfall are often forgotten or ignored.

Declining the Project

If you’re never turning down work then you’re probably running some less than ideal projects. Whether unprofitable, high pressure or simply toxic, it’s best to say no to things that you don’t think you can succeed at, or for people you know you have little chance of impressing.

So what to do?

It’s complex, and takes time to decide on your own ways of client onboarding and project initiation. You will find value in a consistent approach though, even if you have to iterate the approach as you learn your red-lines and strengths.

The strategies above won’t all suit every agency, but in there you should find enough to get you started defining your own options, and when they’re the right decision.

The aim ultimately being to de-risk projects, build stronger client relationships and ensure that the work you are doing delights stakeholders and is worthy of a case-study and word-of-mouth new business.


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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