Are You Forgetting a Stakeholder?
I graduated from college a long time ago, but I still find myself on campus about twice a year, giving a guest lecture or meeting with friends. One of my rituals when I have the time is to peruse the bookstore. I usually buy a couple of textbooks to support my continuing education and keep up with computer science trends.
My last trip was a profound educational experience—because of the books I couldn’t buy.
Historically, college bookstores were organized around subjects, like a library. You could wander to the computer science section and browse. I don’t need another “introduction to data structures” or “programming for rookies,” but a detailed analysis of blockchain might be a prize for my shelf.
Last time, though, I found that the shelves had been completely reorganized. All books were organized alphabetically by the last name of the author. There was a very cool QR code that you could scan with your phone and enter your student ID number, and it would list the required texts for your classes, including the author’s last names. If I were an enrolled student, this would have been awesome and saved me a bunch of time.
Alas, I am not an enrolled student.
Imagine going to a commercial bookstore and discovering that all books had been sorted by author’s last name: cookbooks, biographies, knitting, sci-fi, histories—everything!
I’ll confess that I spent about two minutes wandering through the A’s, looking at books about cellular biology, urban design, and fiction for some English class, before admitting that wandering wasn’t going to work. I left, stopping briefly to inform the nice folks at the desk that I couldn’t spend my money there because of their new “modern” organization.
As I walked away, I imagined the design session for that new system. Someone assumed that the “customers” for the college bookstore were enrolled students looking for their textbooks, which is an obvious and logical assumption, for the most part. They appear to have done a good job of addressing those stakeholder needs.
However, they didn’t think about other customers—namely, me and a lot of other professionals I know—who aren’t students but are trying to stay on top of their craft and engage in lifelong learning. I’m sure we aren’t a big part of their revenue and they may not even notice we are gone, but they have lost us.
When you are thinking about the stakeholders for your shiny new system, don’t rush. Don’t stop at the obvious cases. Ask, “Who are we missing?” Consider not just the advantages of the new system, but also potential disadvantages.
The stakeholders you miss will find other places to spend their money.