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The importance of stakeholder management in software testing

A stakeholder is any individual or group that has an interest in the software under development. He or she could be anyone from the end user to the financial backer. Even employees and government agencies are stakeholders to one degree or another.
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The sheer variety of stakeholders means that it becomes necessary to prioritise certain interests over others, and it also means that stakeholder involvement can be both an advantage or a disadvantage. It can easily become a disadvantage if too many, too few, or the wrong stakeholders are involved.

It is vitally important to follow the formula of Origination – Communication – Resolution, when dealing with stakeholders, The origination could come from a particular stakeholder or a remote usability tester. It might come from anyone legitimately involved in the testing process. It could be a suggestion, a complaint or a question. Once the origination is made, it then becomes necessary for all the interested parties to communicate about it until it is resolved. Such communication may take time, it's not always easy, but if everyone persists, it will reach a resolution.

The key is to know who is responsible for what, and who has legitimate reasons to comment on what. The best stakeholder management is that which takes place as early as possible, ideally before testing even begins. Of course there is the “of mice and men” phenomenon. That is; the best laid plans of mice and men can go astray.  Even so, having a stakeholder map that is fair and can be generally agreed upon will save a tremendous amount of time.

And finally, stakeholder management should never be addressed as if it was just another thing to do on a checklist or an act of public relations. Stakeholders aren't simply people who need to be pacified and gotten out of the way so that testing can continue. They are an integral part of testing itself.  The isolationist viewpoint of separating the company from the consumer and creating an “us and them” mentality, or dividing stakeholders with legitimate interests into those with power and those without; those who must be satisfied and those who can be ignored; is a guarantee of failure.  

Stakeholder management is an important part of the testing process. Providing the right stakeholders with the right information at the right time and listening to their concerns will not be a distraction if you follow the formula of Origination – Communication – Resolution.

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