Team meeting in a conference room

Stakeholder Kickoff

Stakeholder Kickoff (also known as a Kickoff Meeting) is the first tool used to determine what needs to be built and, more importantly, why. It is a strategy meeting with the people who have a vested interest in the product’s success. This may include marketing experts, managers, support team members, developers, custom support reps, or internal UX designers. These people will know the business objectives of the product, the technical constraints, the risks and the basic needs of their customers. The Kickoff Meeting is the first opportunity to verify that all of the stakeholders agree with the product definition and feasibility of the objectives identified for the product.

Stakeholder Kickoff is also an opportunity to describe your design process, list and format of the deliverables, and project control and change management processes. It’s also a perfect time for discussing how you will define the project as “Done”. Schedule time to document the agreement for handoff to technology, documentation requirements and development support. Lastly, make certain there is agreement on success criteria. Knowing how the product will be evaluated is invaluable in keeping all parties in alignment.

Holding a kickoff meeting is your first line of defense against surprise disagreements, scope creep, budget creep, and unexpected obstacles during the design and development processes. A well-organized Kickoff Meeting is the best time to set customer expectations.


Schedule Time & Gather Materials

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Schedule Time:

  • Time Needed: 4 Hours
    Can be split over two days
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

  • Notebook & Pen

Carry Out This Method

Business team taking notes and using comptuers

Step One

Before the meeting, compile a list of key questions:

  • What is the current status of this project? Is it a redesign? Is it a new product for an established company? Is it a new product for a startup?
  • What is the business purpose of the product?
  • What user needs are you hoping to meet with this product? What are your users going to be able to do that they can’t do now?
  • What tasks do your users need to complete in order to meet their needs?
  • What have you already tried? What worked? What didn’t?
  • Who are the users you’re targeting?
  • Who are the users you do not plan on targeting?
  • Who are your main competitors?
  • Do you want to attain the same level of success as your most successful competitor?
  • Does your product need to differentiate itself from the competition?
  • What are the organizational requirements for this product?
  • Is it more important that this product is easy-to-use and easy-to-learn, or is it more important that it have robust, less-easy-to-learn features?
  • What are the technological constraints? What can the hardware support? What can developers support? Will other products or services impact this product?
  • What are the branding requirements, including logos, colors, etc?
  • What will you expressly say “no” to? What are you absolutely opposed to? Why?

Step Two

At the meeting, have everyone introduce themselves and their role. This ensures that the team understands each participant’s point of view. Ask about the needs of absent stakeholders. Make sure this information is recorded.

Step Three

Review your list of questions. Stakeholders may need to discuss unresolved issues. As facilitator, you will need to redirect the discussion back to requirements gathering; if the conversation gets off track, offer to continue the discussion at a later date, after stakeholders have had a chance to resolve the issue.

Step Four

After the meeting, record the requirements and e-mail them to stakeholders. Keep in mind these are preliminary requirements. Individual stakeholder interviews will likely surface additional requirements, constraints and opportunities. Personas, created from user interviews and Ethnography, will be used to write User Scenarios and identify user needs and goals. Final requirements will need to be re-approved after user requirements are identified.

Try These Tips

  • If stakeholders do not have a list of preliminary user tasks, suggest performing a Backcasting session, or Brainstorming method.
  • If you are asked to redesign a product, ask for Voice of Customer feedback (including common complaints and trouble tickets submitted to support), Web Analytics, Clickstream data, and reviews.
  • The facilitator must be firm but tactful – kickoff meetings are often derailed by churn and debate.
  • Discovery Studios can help determine more detailed usability and functionality requirements.

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