For a business analyst, the first and foremost role is to build a strong relationship among the stakeholders by anticipating their requirements and to reduce the probability of occurring any conflicts, right? Well, when a Business analyst works in an Agile environment, a waterfall environment or in a regular business process, the “usual problems” that we come across with stakeholders always somehow relate to a requirement conflict. Lets us know more about the Stakeholders and the requirement conflicts.

This blog has been written to help you to know about the approach to build a constructive relation with stakeholders and to help you learn an approach managing conflicts in an effective manner. It is extremely important for a business analyst to build a good rapport with the stakeholders to resolve the conflicts which can occur at any stage of the project development cycle of website or mobile apps, mostly during requirements validation activities.

Who are Stakeholders?

Stakeholders are the individuals or groups who will be impacted by, or can influence the success or failure of an organization’s activities (By Bourne 2009).

By definition, a stakeholder has a stake in the activity. This stake may be:

  • An Interest in the outcome, an individual or group affected by the work or the outcome, whether direct or indirect
  • Rights (Legal or Moral)
  • Ownership, such as intellectual property rights, or real property rights
  • Contribution in the form of knowledge (expertise or experience) or support (in the form of funds, human resources, or advocacy) (By Bourne 2009)

What is Stakeholder management process ?

  • Identify Stakeholders: Stakeholder identification is very much necessary that which stakeholders are internal or external. Stakeholders can be differentiated depending upon different factors such as requirements, relationships and influence.
  • Prioritize stakeholders: We can prioritize the stakeholders depending upon their roles and responsibilities.
  • Get to know stakeholders: Knowing the stakeholders is a major aspect to maintain a great business process. We need to ask right questions to know the stakeholder requirements, blockers of the project, critics, supporters or advocates.
  • Stakeholder relationship management: To maintain a great partnership or relationship with the stakeholders we need to follow several strategies like Engagement strategies, Relationship building strategies, Building mutually beneficial relations, The emotional bank account of trust, the 3 C’s (Connection, Capability and Concern)

What is Stakeholder Conflict management?

It is the process in which the negative conflicts raised among the stakeholders will be limited by increasing the positive aspects of the conflict. This aims to increase the effective outcome of the project including constructive and productive performance in an organizational setting. Differences in values, attitudes, requirements, expectations, perceptions, resources, and personalities, behaviours can cause conflict in an organisation as it involves different people from different background.

As a Business analyst, soft skills like negotiation, diplomacy, collaboration etc. are required in these kind of situations. A BA often encounters with these kinds of situations and needs to broker a solution to manage the conflicts.

How to manage Conflicts?

There are few steps to adopt while managing the conflicts:

  • Defining Conflict
  • Differentiating the functional and dysfunctional conflicts between the stakeholders
  • Identifying the reasons/sources of stakeholder conflicts
  • Indicators or warnings of stakeholder conflict
  • Levels of stakeholder conflict

Stakeholder Conflict Resolution Styles

  • Competing: Competition always consists of two parties where one side loses and other side wins. This strategy is suitable in case of limited number of conflicts, such as emergency situations. Generally, business owners benefit from adopting this strategy in crisis situations and decisions that generate win/lose situation, such as pay cuts or layoffs.
  • Collaborating: This strategy works out by collaborating ideas taken from multiple stakeholders. The aim of the style is to achieve an effective solution which will satisfy all the stakeholders’ concerns. It always causes a win-win situation.
  • Compromising: This strategy is adopted when time can be saved by reaching intermediate settlements on individual parts of complex issues or goals are moderately important. Business owners frequently employ compromise during contract negotiations with other businesses when each party stands to lose something valuable, such as a customer or necessary service.
  • Accommodating: This is used when one of the parties wishes to keep the peace or perceives the issue as minor. By implementing this Credibility and influence can be lost sometimes.
  • Avoiding: This strategy involves resolving conflict by withdrawing, sidestepping, or postponing. By delaying or ignoring the conflict, the avoider hopes that the problem will resolve by itself without having to put any effort. In some circumstances, avoidance can be profitable for the organisation as conflict management strategy, such as after the dismissal of a popular but unproductive employee. The hiring of a more productive replacement for the position soothes much of the conflict.

Graphical representation of Conflict resolution types

Figure 1.1 Conflict resolution type

Stakeholder Conflict Resolution Process

  • Listening to the Stakeholders: Listen to the stakeholders mindfully what they are trying to explain. They may try to convince you that they are right but as a business analyst you need to first listen and understand the reasons of the conflicts. Without understanding the whole scenario don’t put the solution or suggestions. After understanding the problem statement stakeholders should be offered with various solutions that can be adopted.
  • Provide a forum for conflict resolution: Best way to resolve the conflict is to confront it. A meeting can be arranged by BA for all the stakeholders so that they can put their views in front of each other. As the BA plays a role of facilitator in the meeting, he/she needs to make sure that every stakeholder gets a chance to speak out their points. BA also need to make sure that the meeting goes in a positive direction towards achieving the targeted goal. If this method seems to not working then several other methods can be adopted.

Graphical representation of Conflict resolution types

Figure 1.2 Graphical representation of Conflict resolution types

The Conclusion

The aim of this article is to spread knowledge about how a Business Analyst handles the stakeholder management and conflict resolution process. Stakeholders and conflicts are inseparable but it can be handled effectively to achieve the ultimate goal. We believe that the productivity can be increased by proper conflict management and maintaining a good relationship among the stakeholders.

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