Here’s a hint: it may not be who you expect.

You’ve probably thought long and hard about all the ways your new software development project will save you time, money, and effort.

But have you stopped to ask your end-users for their opinions? With so much riding on your project, the last thing you want is to learn that it doesn’t work for them right after deployment– when making changes is the most costly and difficult.

Rethinking Stakeholders

If your project involves making changes to your software, then doesn’t it make sense that end-users have the most to gain from its success? This is the very heart of what it means to be a stakeholder, yet every day well-meaning business leaders overlook the assets sitting right in front of them. Employees are a fertile ground for new ideas, since at the end of the day they’re the people who will be using the software.
And worse, by leaving employees out they forgo the higher productivity and lower turn-over associated with engagement.

Leveraging Insight

Take the convenience store, Seven-Eleven. Many of us are familiar with Seven-Eleven Japan’s decision to put purchasing decisions on its lower-level employees. When Seven-Eleven took advice from the people most intimately aware of day-to-day spending patterns, they were rewarded with increased revenue and decreased overhead. Seven-Eleven didn’t have to put the entire business logic in the hands of their clerks—instead, they carefully judged what knowledge would be most useful to them and designed a framework for utilizing it.

Incorporating feedback vs. dividing authority

If you’re worried that accepting feedback will give employees the false idea that they are the decision-makers, then it’s time to reassess. The truth is that most employees feel more empowered and appreciated just by simply asking for their opinions.
Granted, if employees sense that you asked for their opinions without ever intending to listen, morale will certainly suffer. In all likelihood, you’ll find that there are at least a few valuable pieces of information to learn from them.

Have an organized plan for evaluating stakeholder requests

We recommend having a plan in place before you undertake a new software development project. Ideally, you will be able to objectively weigh the opinions of your stakeholders to make sure that their requests will truly produce the best results for your company– inside, and out.

Cultivate a culture where employees want to share their thoughts

This, perhaps, is the most daunting piece of advice I can offer, but it can be the most beneficial—knowing how people are spending their time and encouraging them to share ideas about how to optimize their process will reap serious rewards for your software development project, and more importantly—your bottom line.