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Amy Sharif

Head of Data Science Operations

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Top tips for data scientists dealing with difficult stakeholders

By Amy Sharif on December 2, 2021 - 5 Minute Read

Issues with code are easily Googled, but how do you manage problems with stakeholders who have the potential to derail your project? Whether you’re working with senior management or co-ordinating cross functional teams, Peak’s data scientists share top tips they’ve learned when it comes to managing data projects.


Be prepared to fail and iterate on it. One lesson I’ve learned is to (try to) keep the code as simple and modular as possible. This means you can quickly iterate on the bits that worked and archive the rest without re-writing the whole thing. – Joe


Beware of pleasing the wrong stakeholder – the person you talk to and who uses your solution everyday may be over the moon but if the person holding the purse strings isn’t happy you can run into big issues. – Gareth


Never forget the basics! Be agile and nimble in your approach, onboard stakeholders throughout the process, and keep a firm grip on the objectives and deliverables. Regular updates and feedback is vital to ensure everyone is on the same page. – Saurabh


Don’t let the small things – like UI changes – derail progress on the overall project. It helps to try and use the same language as the people you are communicating with (i.e., industry specific terms). – Simon


We work with data, so you can quite quickly lose credibility, confidence and trust with stakeholders if the data you show them isn’t right or doesn’t match their version of the truth. Validate your view of their world (through their data) with theirs as soon as possible so they trust the outputs you end up providing them. – Amy


Take time to ensure that all parties are super clear on project goals, timelines, outputs and success criteria. Then play it back and document it so that there are no surprises later down the line (again, for all parties!). Alignment is key. – Rebekah


Empathy is key, particularly with challenging stakeholders. Take time to understand why the situation is making that person difficult to deal with, do they have bad experiences or preconceived ideas about AI or ML projects? Find contextual clues on how to ease the situation. – Remy


Empower stakeholders or ‘bring them on the journey’… they won’t be critical of their own work if they’ve had a hand in it! – Jamie


If stakeholders change during a project, make sure you understand the needs and requirements of the new joiner. They will probably be quite different to the previous stakeholder. – Chris

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