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How to collaborate with stakeholders and increase product value

In this article

Coordinating schedules, ensuring that everyone completes their tasks by their deadlines, resolving conflicts around competing ideas and personality clashes — collaboration can sometimes feel harder than herding a group of cats!

Yet, collaboration has many benefits. When people with different levels and types of expertise work together, they can come up with new angles of looking at old problems, leading to solutions that can greatly increase product value. Collaboration is also important for raising the efficiency of the product development process. When domain experts share their insights on particular aspects of a product, the team can more quickly identify problem areas and/or opportunities to focus their attention on.

But to tap into these benefits, one needs to first figure out a smooth collaboration process. This article will explore some ways to make the collaboration process better for all. It will first give an overview of stakeholder profiles to illustrate the unique contributions each stakeholder can make. Next, it will look at some common challenges that arise during collaboration. Finally, it will look at ways to address these challenges and improve the collaboration process.

Who are the stakeholders?

Simply put, a stakeholder is anyone who has an interest in your project. Tomer Sharon, author of “It’s Our Research: Getting Stakeholder Buy-In for User Experience Research Projects”, identifies four core stakeholder groups:

  • Business stakeholders (upper management, product managers, marketers, and salespeople)
  • Engineering stakeholders (engineers, QA (quality assurance), tech support/customer relations)
  • User experience stakeholders (designers, researchers, technical writers)
  • Users

Since this article focuses on intra-organisational collaboration, we will focus on the first three groups (even though users are, of course, indispensable to the entire process!). Let’s use the fictitious example of building a product for meal planning to see how these stakeholders contribute their strengths to the process.

Business stakeholders

Upper management stakeholders can provide direction on the overall UX strategy that the company is to take and determine the budget that is available for building the product. Product managers might then call together a cross-functional team to discuss the overall product development timeline as well as gather requirements for the app. Marketers work on identifying customer segments, such as single working adults in their 20s-30s who want quick and nutritious meals. Salespeople identify clients that user experience researchers and product managers can interview to learn more about building the product.

User experience stakeholders

Designers come up with some designs for the product’s interface or packaging, technical writers work on the documentation for product and any text on the product, and user experience researchers (who will hopefully have been involved at the initial stage of uncovering solutions) work with users to observe whether the product actually solves the user’s problems.

Engineering stakeholders

Engineers work on building the final product and provide advice on the feasibility of solutions given technological constraints. If the final product is a piece of software, QA testers will work on making sure that the product meets quality standards. Technical support and customer relations staff can offer valuable insights on common issues that users of current products face, which can help inform future product development directions and/or research directions.

What are some common challenges of collaboration?

Even with a team of enthusiastic colleagues, the process of collaboration can still be a challenging one. Some common issues that teams may face are:

1. Insufficient time

Each step of the product development cycle takes time and since there might be a tight delivery cycle, certain roles might not get as much time as they actually need to be thorough.

2. Value of research not understood

This issue particularly affects UX researchers, particularly if other stakeholders think that there is already enough research conducted by marketers or if they think the research method proposed will not provide statistically significant results.

3. Tensions from overlapping roles

As the adage “Too many cooks in a kitchen spoil the broth” suggests, a perceived overlap of roles might lead to tensions as people feel that this minimises accountability, creates confusion, and wastes time.

How to make the collaboration process smoother?

Now that we have seen some common challenges of collaboration, let’s explore how to improve the process.

1. Have a joint kick-off meeting to establish roadmap

Creating a joint product roadmap during a meeting can be useful in several ways. It can enable members from cross-functional teams to raise questions or suggestions about product development milestones, as well as enable everyone on the team to comment on whether the timeline is feasible. It also helps prevent the overlapping of roles by clarifying who is responsible for what.

2. Brainstorm individually and discuss ideas as a group

Rather than brainstorming as a group, it can be useful to provide time and space for individual thinking before coming together to discuss and vote on ideas. Such an approach allows for individual expertise to be shared by accommodating a range of thinking styles and also helps avoid groupthink.

This can be done by having individuals jot down ideas on post-its (or by using collaboration tools such as Miro) and then putting it on a collective board for viewing. Individuals can then vote on the ideas they like best and the group can come together again to decide on an action plan for executing the idea.

A Miro affinity map with user interview insights grouped into categories (by Regina Hong)

A Miro affinity map with user interview insights grouped into categories (by Regina Hong)

3. Set up frequent check-ins with clear meeting agendas

While meetings are important for tracking the progress on a project, ever heard the sentiment “That meeting could have been an email!”? Avoid this situation by involving only relevant stakeholders and having an agenda with clear time allocations for each meeting (Tomer Sharon recommends no more than 30 minutes unless necessary).

It can also be helpful to clarify what will not be discussed at the meeting to avoid unnecessary time spent on things that are not helpful to discuss at the current stage of the project.

At the end of each meeting, clarify action items that can be completed ahead of the next meeting. This is useful for informing the agenda of the next meeting and is useful for tracking the project’s progress.

Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

4. Understand constraints

This will help the team to choose solutions and methodologies that align with the given timeline and requirements. For instance, if there is a limited budget and time for research, then user experience researchers might propose methods such as experience sampling instead of field studies for understanding how users interact with products.

5. Involve stakeholders throughout the process and present jointly

For UXRs seeking to better demonstrate the value of research to their stakeholders, Sharon stresses that it is important to involve stakeholders in the actual execution of the research project and not just the follow-up phase. Another strategy is to also involve stakeholders in the presentation of research findings when it relates to their role and area of expertise, which can make the findings more convincing to other stakeholders.


Having a successful collaboration requires forethought and detailed planning, but it can lead to stellar results that not only increase product value but also raise team cohesion. Hopefully, the points covered in the article will have provided you some idea on how to make the collaboration process better and smoother for your own team.

If you want to know more about user experience and its industry, do check out our other resources available on our website, such as our articles, weekly webinars, and podcasts.

CuriousCore offers mid-career professionals specialized and career accelerator courses and we also provide practitioner-led masterclasses and consultations for organisations to improve their customer experience strategy and business growth.