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My client has initiated the project and pledged to be an active participant in project activities. However, as project progressed, my queries on functionalities were not answered by the stakeholder. Delays were imminent. However questions were raised on delivery dates. My question is how do I get the stakeholder to actually contribute knowledge and participate in the agile processes?

I felt my question is inline with the question here - How do you get stakeholders who don't care engaged?, However, I could not connect the answer to my question.

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    Can you be more specific on the situation? Were there initial discussions and you're looking for clarification or just approval of ideas? Are all queries ignored or are they just taking a long time or are you getting conflicting answers? One of the difficulties with answering these can be that different reasons for disengagement will have very different solutions. – Daniel Mar 12 '14 at 15:09
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    What are the consequences if the stakeholder remains disengaged? – Mark C. Wallace Mar 13 '14 at 16:15
  • @Daniel, There was initial discussions but on timelines. Clarifications came very late in project timeline. Sporadic instances of conflicting clarification also happened. However, it was expected irrespective of time when clarifications were given, the timeline of the project would be honored. – Siva Senthil Mar 17 '14 at 6:13
  • @Mark, the project which I discussed here is already in UAT phase. It is flaky and there are lot of questions now on functionality and there questions on functionality which are asked to me. This risk of disputing on functionality is the risk of disengagement. Which client being client pushes it as responsibility of the contractor. :( – Siva Senthil Mar 17 '14 at 6:15
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Face-to-face (or video) communication and demo

Not sure how you communicated your "queries on functionalties" to the stakeholders. It sounds waterfall-ish.

My question is how do I get the stakeholder to actually contribute knowledge and participate in the agile processes?

Agile encourages face-to-face communication. Did you meet with the stakeholders? If your client is not in the same location as you are, get them on a video call. Nowadays with Google Hangout, Skype and other tools, this should not be difficult.

Also, one of the Agile principles is to "Deliver working software frequently". Even if you don't actually deliver the software, at a minimum you should set up a sprint review meeting and demo the working software to stakeholders. During the demo you can pause at the appropriate places and seek feedback and clarifications.

I worked with a client with similar challenges. Clients have other priorities and may not know your timeline. We initiated a practice to send out such requests with our expected response times. In a two week sprint you do not have much wiggle room. If the response is not received in a day or two then it becomes an impediment reported to the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master will follow-up, meet in person or escalate to senior levels - whatever it takes to get a response. It should become a crisis by the end of that sprint rather than get carried forward to the end of the project.

  • the demo was done frequently. They were happy with it. There was a working s/w given for them to use. They refrained it to use till UAT finish date came closer. Video was a point which we missed. However, there were frequent voice calls where client (Domain Experts) promises to reply but does not do it even after remiders. – Siva Senthil Mar 17 '14 at 6:17
  • I added to my answer based on additional details provided by you. – Ashok Ramachandran Mar 18 '14 at 14:11

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