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24 May 2010

Managing Stakeholder Sign-off

It is Friday afternoon at 4pm on a holiday weekend. Your requirements document is finally finished, only two weeks late and twice the planned length. The process has been fraught with contention and divisiveness. Yet you, the masterful BA, have managed to gain approval from all but one stakeholder. You spend the last hour of your day before that long, glorious, well-deserved time off in a frantic race around the building, hoping, praying, that the one remaining stakeholder who needs to approve the document hasn't already left for their houseboat on the lake.

I've done that marathon more times than I care to count and know that, sadly, before too long, I'll be doing it yet again for some future project. It seems an unavoidable part of life as a BA to comb the hallways and isle ways hunting for that most elusive of creatures... a signature.

But does it have to be so? There are many reasons stakeholders avoid putting pen to paper. Some don't understand what they're being asked to sign because they haven't bothered to read the document or they read three sentences and were lost with all the 'technical jargon'. Others simply don't want to be held responsible for anything and will thus delay and avoid attaching their name to anything that could be later used to blame them for a failure.

Over the years, I've done sign-off a number of different ways. Some times its with a limited group, others with the full project team. Sometimes its based on title, other times on project role. I've even done a few digital signatures via email, for those stakeholders who work in other countries. Most of the time though, it has been plain pen on paper.

There is something to be said for a physical signature. It gives a weight or a gravity that an electronic signature often fails to provide. For some, the idea of writing their name, the same act they perform when signing a contract or endorsing a check, makes the whole process of sign-off more real.

It is with that in mind that the idea of digital 'wet' signatures caught my eye. Honestly, I don't see this idea taking off, but the entire concept made me curious as to how it would be received in a project setting. What do you think? Could a process like this be the first step in gaining acceptance of digital signatures with your stakeholders?