Blog title managing stakeholder expectations for data viz

Fatema El-Wakeel, an Analytics-Driven Strategy thought leader, and I did a Clubhouse room called “Managing Stakeholder Expectations for Data Viz” last week.

The room was not only fun to host, but also one of the most engaging and interesting ones I’ve attended. I got to learn a lot from Fatema and the other attendees. 

In this post, I’ll share more about my process for managing stakeholder expectations when it comes to creating data viz for them and mention a few of my favorite takeaways from the conversation.

Identify Who Your Stakeholders Are

This is the first step I do before starting on any project. I really emphasize this step because otherwise, it’s easy to confuse stakeholders with other viewers of your viz, which may lead to scope creep in your project because you are trying to please too many folks.

So I recommend answering these questions first about your stakeholders:

  1. Who are my stakeholders? List their names!
  2. What do they care about/ what keeps them up at night?
  3. What tools are they comfortable working with?
  4. What are they able to understand? What concepts would I maybe have to explain to them?

Answering these questions will allow you to create a data viz that is tailored to your stakeholders and make them more likely to use it because it fits their needs/asks well. 

Involve Your Stakeholders in the Decision-Making Process

This will save you a lot of back and forth and having to re-do some work by engaging them in the decision-making progress early on. 

Here are a few ways to do so:

  • I loved Fatema’s tip of having a “problem structuring session” where you get together with your stakeholders and do a whiteboarding session. In this session you get to uncover what it is they really need vs what they want
  • Do mock-ups (can be a sketch or something done on Powerpoint) and get feedback from stakeholders before making the real thing (saving you time in case they want to go in a different direction)
  • One attendee brought up how they do wireframing (from UI field) to sketch such mock-ups and share them with stakeholders. They can be quite low tech, like a sketch using pen and paper, or more detailed/high fidel on design programs
  • You can take it up a notch and create a Minimum Viable Product (another suggestion from an attendee) and share that with your stakeholders

Involving stakeholders in the decision-making process can help tremendously with managing their expectations and making their inputs feel heard.

Let me know if you have other advice or questions on this topic in the comments below or on social media.