One of the first questions we ask prospective clients is, "Who are the stakeholders for your project?" It's no secret that one key to a productive agency relationship is a well-chosen group of internal stakeholders.

Here's how to identify the right participants for your project.

Typical UX project stakeholders:

  • The project sponsor.
  • People who can provide useful expertise about the product or customers.
  • People whose daily job or objectives will be impacted by project decision. This could mean they are expected to do something as a result of the project, or it could mean their KPIs will be impacted by its outcomes.

Pro tip: Too many people? Assign a single person to represent a larger group.

What titles do the stakeholders have?

Titles vary. For most organizations, the stakeholders for a UX project involve folks from the following groups:

  • Executive Leadership
  • Product Management
  • Brand and/or Creative 
  • Development and Engineering

Most projects also include someone who interfaces with customers. For some projects, we'll see stakeholders from support, sales, or channel/partner management.

What does it mean to be a stakeholder in a UX project?

Stakeholders must make themselves available for meetings, be present during reviews, generate ideas (and requirements), and consider the risks and benefits of ideas that are brought to the table. They must also consider the implications of implementation so the team can align on an execution plan for recommendations that "make it out of committee."

If you're representing a group, it means gathering the group's feedback and communicating status back to them.

WHAT's my time commitment?

We find that a lead stakeholder can expect to spend at least 5 hours of project time for every 40 hours a designer spends. Depending on the level of collaboration that's appropriate for the project, they may need to devote more time - but rarely less. As the stakeholder team grows, so does the spent ensuring that the group is aligned.

A common mistake when hiring outside UX design resources is to expect that once a vendor has been selected, the client's job is done. In other words, you shouldn't expect to hire a turnkey vendor to "take care of the UX."  While a good UX team will take ownership on documenting plans that support the user's needs, they do so on the basis of the team's shared vision. The project's success relies on the team's participation. Stakeholders should advise on technical feasibility, resource allocation, business priorities, and insights that the organization has already discovered. You can help your UX team be successful by devoting time & focus to their efforts.