Then consider starting out with the five C’s of opportunity identification (for would-be innovators), as outlined by Scott Anthony on the HBR blogs.
The specific problems a stakeholder cares about and the way they assess solutions is very circumstance contingent. For example, when beginning a new advertising campaign, Marketing is clearly interested in who can create the campaign most likely to convince a customer to part with dollars and not how much the invoice for the materials will be. However, the marketing assistant charged with obtaining 10,000 flyers and 100 posters for an upcoming conference will likely be much more cost conscious as she will likely be questioned by the CFO otherwise.
Ask a stakeholder to report what they did in the past and you are likely to get something that bears only a loose resemblance to reality. Ask a stakeholder to describe what they will do in the future and you are going to get guesses that are less than accurate. Most people have no conscious memory of how they do routine tasks or any real idea of how they will accomplish a (new) task in the future. If you really want to understand how something is done, you need to watch as it is being done. And if you want to get a good feeling as to what kind of solution will please the stakeholder, watch as they try to solve the problem. Get some insight into how they think! How is Operations managing their temp labour contracts?
One of the time-tested paths to growth is to develop an innovative means around a barrier constraining consumption. If your e-Sourcing platform is not being used outside of your core buying team, then it is probably too cumbersome, too incomprehensible, or too demanding. As the author notes, understanding why a customer doesn’t consume is critical. Something new typically isn’t enough. And simply replacing Big Vendor Product X with Big Vendor Product Y isn’t guaranteed to solve the problem if Big Vendor Product Y is also missing critical path function Z.
- Compensating Behaviours
One of the biggest challenges facing the would-be innovator is determining whether a job is important enough to consider targeting. One clear sign is a stakeholder spending money trying to solve a problem. Another clear sign is they are trying to use a product in an unintended way to try and solve a problem. Unfortunately, if the tool is a spreadsheet (and they are misusing it horribly), it probably means they aren’t willing to spend money, at least in Supply Management – so don’t get your hopes up!
Stakeholders look at jobs through functional, emotional, and social lenses. Quality is a relative term; you can only determine if a solution is good by first understanding the criteria that matter to a particular stakeholder. If they care only about new market acquisition, a cost discussion is a losing battle. Only about innovation, a strategy to extend the longevity of the current product is a losing battle.