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Stakeholder Elicitation and the Evil Eye

I looked up over the top of my laptop and there he was, giving me the evil eye. A Canadian goose with a long black neck and white chest stood at the end of the bench, peering down at me with his little black eyes, and head cocked slightly at an angle.

Image of a Canadian gooseI was on a park bench on the West side of Central Park in New York checking some emails. My plan was to spend my day off back home in Orange County, but that plan failed due to excessively high winds in Southern California the night before. My flight was cancelled at the last minute, and I did not have any other options to get back home. So, I took my day off and walked Central Park.

The park was absolutely beautiful in its December glory. Crisp and cool, there was almost a false fall feeling to the air. The kind of feeling you get around Halloween and the end of October. There was no snow on the ground, but you knew that the ground could easily be covered in white the very next day.

People were everywhere. There were runners on the roads and paths. There were couples pushing baby carriages up and down paths. There were people from all over the world standing, pointing, and sitting as they chattered and discussed the sights in Spanish and French. I saw a number of grade and high school groups walking the park and discussing the monuments and history of the park. People were clearly enthralled to be out in the park; enjoyment was shown on the faces of all that I passed.

Central Park was not always beloved by all the people of New York. It took many years for Central Park to become the park of the people that we all now know. In the first years after Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of American Landscape Architecture designed the park in 1857 there was confusion, anger, and disappointment expressed by the very stakeholders the park was reputed to be designed for. In essence, the project was a failure; the park did not meet the requirements of the stakeholders.

In the first decade of the park’s existence, only the wealthy could afford access by costly carriages. There was also ban on picnics in the park, which discouraged the German and Irish New Yorkers from visiting the park. Small tradesmen were not allowed to use their commercial wagons for family drives in the park, and only school boys with a note from their principal could play ball on the meadows. There were “Keep off the Grass” signs posted all over the park. The park could only be used by a small percentage of the New York population.

How could such a massive and important project ignore the majority of the project's stakeholders? The answer to this question lies in the year this project was conceived. At that period of time, the design of parks was done without eliciting requirements from all stakeholders. In other words, the design of the park was done based upon input from a small subset of the project’s stakeholders. The park’s design was beautiful and delicious, but did not meet the requirements of the majority of stakeholders at that period of time; only over time did the park meet the requirements of modern stakeholders.

I looked up over the top of my laptop and there he was, giving me the evil eye. “What do you mean you want to talk to the order entry department and elicit requirements?” says the CFO at a client site where we are implementing a Microsoft Dynamics NAV system. “I have worked here for over 10 years and I absolutely know what the order entry department needs so they can do their job. You do not need to talk to them, only me.” He goes on to say.

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