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Why key stakeholders are important for your gamified project

A Series In Design & Game-Based Learning Tools And Toolkits

I’d like to start with the statement around identifying key stakeholders from our Game-Based Learning Toolkit:

“With you, we explore who you are, what you offer and where you fit.”

In this piece, our next instalment in our series around gamified design and game-based learning tools, I’d like to look at how to identify key stakeholders when planning and developing a gamified solution for your organisation.

This article will be more straightforward in its presentation, somewhat more a guide and a process description than a theoretical piece around the needs and musts for correctly dealing with stakeholders.

Identifying the right stakeholders from the start when developing a gamified business solution is of high importance. As they will need to either sign off on it and/or be on-board with the idea for the solution to get off the ground and have any effect or impact.

Here are five quick questions for those that want a TL;DR and want something they can work from immediately to start identifying their key stakeholder:

  1. Do they have an impact on your organisation’s performance?
  2. What do you want/need from them?
  3. Do you want/need the relationship to grow?
  4. Can you continue without them?
  5. Have they already been identified?

These are taken from an article in the Harvard Business Review and ideally the first four questions should have a Yes answer to them and the final fifth question should have a No. But lets go a little more in depth into the general process that has these five questions as a start.

Who are your stakeholders?

If you are currently unsure as to who your key stakeholders are, then these three groupings are a good place to start from:

  1. Main business – Owner or relevant member of senior management, essentially the decision-maker in the organisation.
  2. Marketing / Sales – a senior relevant member from marketing and/or sales department/team, someone who knows and understands the products/services and the target audience of the organisation.
  3. Target audience – the customers and/or the employees of the business.

 

These three will likely be the main stakeholder groups in any business, and they are necessary to help you in identifying the relevant goals for you gamified solution, as well as discovering the associated problems and blockers to that solution.

But as you go through the process of identifying your key stakeholders, you will likely come across others than the three named above. These three are just a starting point in case you have no idea where to begin.

Depending on your organisation and business, as well as what the outcomes are of the desired gamified solution, the stakeholder’s groups may differ or there may be more that you need to be aware of and focus on. Other examples of stakeholder groups are IT Services, Customer Services, Operations, or external partners to the business. Any or all of these groups may be relevant to you and the development of your gamified solution.

Goals & Obstacles

The main purpose of identifying key stakeholders is to help you to discover and determine whether the overall goal for the gamified solution is indeed the correct one. This is why you must find out who the main decision-maker is among the key stakeholders. Keep in mind though that the goals of the stakeholders do need to align with the overall business goals. If there is a mismatch then you will need to go back and find out why the goals do not align. A misalignment can cause issues for you and your gamified solution down the line.

The best way to avoid any mismatches and to ensure that the correct stakeholders and goals are found is through direct contact between you and the likely stakeholder candidates. Interview the main stakeholders in real-time and get their input and points of view around the business and you proposed solution. This will remove any misunderstandings or vagueness and ambiguity in your findings.

A good reference point for the main goals is that they will likely be linked to financial targets for the business and be associated with a metrics framework. Be prepared for this outcome, even though you may want to create a gamified solution that improves peoples lives or save the world, a business still needs to generate revenue to make the goal of saving the world viable.

Additionally, it may occur that multiple goals are stated by the various key stakeholders. It will be down to you to determine the priority of these goals. I would recommend that for your gamified solution that you narrow it down to three goals as a maximum. Within the three you will have one main goal and two minor goals. The solution must aim to solve the main goal no matter what, the two minor goals are there as a bonus but should be dispensable if the scope of the project becomes too large.

 

Importance of stakeholder identification

There are several reasons why it’s important to identify your key stakeholders when starting with a gamified solution. We’ve already touched on a few, but here are four more that outline the major reasons for engaging in this process:

  1. It helps shape the project in accordance with what the stakeholders want for the business. Ambiguity in the project is lessened allowing for a greater level of focus by you and your team.
  2. Gaining the support from the main stakeholder(s) means that there will be time, money and resources available for you to develop and effectively implement your solution. Without these, the project will likely never get off the ground, let alone be finished in any kind of state.
  3. Communication and comprehension are crucial for the success of a gamified solution. The earlier you start with communication the better it is and the more understanding there will be for the benefits of the solution you have proposed. Effective communication lowers barriers and lessens the chances of the project being scrapped.
  4. And finally forethought for those with vested interests. Knowing and understanding your key stakeholders means you will be able to make better decisions and anticipate what your stakeholders may or may not want from the gamified solution. Being able to have this level of forethought will likely end up saving you and them both time and resources.

Final Thoughts

I’ll leave you with a quick rundown of a step-by-step process for identifying key stakeholders and how to work with the data you collect from them.

Firstly make a spreadsheet. In this spreadsheet, you will list all the various stakeholders and groups that you have found and identified both internally and externally in your organisation.

Next, prioritise the stakeholders in terms of importance, power and influence within and outside of your organisation. If you wish some sort of legend to do this then you may use the following terms for your stakeholders: Work with closely / Keep convinced / Keep informed.

These three levels are the main levels in descending priority for the majority of stakeholders.

Once you have listed and prioritised your stakeholders, start to link the various issues, problems/obstacles, objectives and goals of each group to others (if possible). Cross-reference these various points to see if there are any similarities. These parallels will be the starting for your connections and goal alignments.

When you’ve made these connections, draw out a map to visually represent your findings. Write down the various obstacles and objectives for you and your team. Having these two in a physical format will be useful for you as you will be able to return to them regularly to make sure that your gamified solution is still on track and is heading in the right direction.

If you follow this process and keep in regular contact with your key stakeholders, then your project will be a success and you will have a direct positive impact on your organisation through your gamified solution.

I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.

Do check out the other posts on æStranger.com, and do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.

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