There will be no shortage of product feedback from stakeholders not only during product requirements review, but also throughout the product development cycle. You will need to walk the fine line between being receptive while staying focused. These methods can help you stay balanced on that tightrope.

Let’s take a look at how to go about gathering product feedback from your stakeholders.

After you have set your sights on the problem to be solved and conducted initial research, you will have laid the groundwork upon which to draft product requirements. Use these insights to document the context, customer problem scenarios, and the proposed features to alleviate those problems. As much as possible, include quantitative and qualitative evidence to support your arguments. These steps will help prepare you for reviewing and gathering feedback from relevant stakeholders within your organization as well as prospects and customers.

This can seem like a daunting task given the number of internal and external groups that will be affected by the feature. Moreover, you are likely to receive a plethora of differing opinions that you will need to sift through. How do you ensure that you are honing in on the important feedback points and using them to guide you towards a clear direction as opposed to an infinite spiral?

Who should you gather feedback from?

Start with the customer in mind and identify those that will be impacted by this feature. Then compile a list of the customer facing team members that interface with them regularly.

This group can provide input based on their interactions and facilitate direct conversations with customers. Make sure these lists are representative of the customer-facing departments and client types. Depending on the number of contacts this exercise produces, you can then start to schedule individual or group meetings to gather feedback.

Another pivotal source of information and guidance will come from your User Experience partners. Gain a strong understanding of the UX Research and Design methodologies in place at your organization. Also, forge an alliance with the UX team early on in the process. Once armed with the business context, this team will conduct research interviews and interactive design sessions with stakeholders. They will then employ their design prowess on these inputs to formulate a coherent and consistent user experience. 

Alongside these discussions, be sure to share draft requirements with key points of contacts from Engineering teams that will be developing these features. Even though it’s not quite time to determine how to build the solution, you will often receive valuable insights into the problem at hand. If you are working on a feature to enhance reporting, for example, this team can help uncover transaction types you have not considered. Knowing this now will save you time spent investigating and reworking the problem at a later date.

Whose feedback should you listen to?

The DACI model can frame the list of feedback providers into Driver (e.g., Product Manager), Approver, Contributor and Informed categories.

In this model the Product Manager’s role is to drive towards a decision. For Approvers, you may want to have one representative from each department that your stakeholders belong to in order to ensure cross-team alignment on the decisions made. The bulk of interviewees will fall into the Contributor category. Their inputs are just as valued, but ultimately the decision will be owned by Approvers. Finally, those that should be kept Informed would include the entire list along plus any others in the organization that should be kept apprised of updates.

How should you process and incorporate that feedback?

Provide stakeholders with instructions on your preferred methods of receiving their feedback. For example, comments in documents, entering into spreadsheets, along with any necessary templates.

For inputs received verbally, synthesize the key points and document them using the standard input format you decided upon. Then start to group these into themes and reflect on how these should shift your approach if at all. The relationships you have built with your stakeholders over time will be your greatest asset as you distill all of the feedback you received. Communicate with them regularly. Then, they can accompany you on this journey, raise potential red flags and advocate for you within their teams.

How do you maintain buy-in and goodwill from your stakeholders? 

First and foremost, maintain transparency throughout the process of asking for product feedback.

The supporting documentation including meeting minutes, feedback received and decisions taken will earn you credibility. Also, seek out the appropriate forums to conduct summarized readouts. These should include all of the process steps taken, colleagues and customers spoken to, themes, decisions taken and why. A great way to do this is to join forces with User Experience in presenting Design Reviews. Reinforce these with pictures from participatory design sessions. This will remind your stakeholders of all the valued inputs collected from them and how they informed the paths chosen. Additionally, seek opportunities to present at core Product meetings (e.g., Product Councils) and relevant department meetings. Finally, circle back with customers who have provided feedback to inform them of progress and validate early mock-ups.

About the Speaker
White Ops Product Manager

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