Patrick White

The advisory board, the steering committee, the working group—these bodies can all be spectacular tools to help focus and guide your project when the task is complex. But they take time and effort to establish, and it’s not always clear which projects need formal guidance. So when should you create an advisory board for your project? Here are two situations:

  1. Your project impacts a wide range of people/groups: When your stakeholders vary widely, it becomes increasingly difficult for the project team to understand and address every concern. Stakeholders that don’t see an advocate within your project won’t buy into it. Diverse groups also make it harder to uncover and share lessons learned from one user group to the whole. A steering committee or advisory board provides strategic guidance that prioritizes stakeholder needs, troubleshoots common issues, and acts as a conduit for information between the project team and the people ultimately impacted.
  2. You have a highly specialized topic with diverse user needs: This scenario has all of the qualities of the first example, but includes a highly technical problem. Often a single subject matter expert (SME) cannot adequately define requirements or solutions that recognize the needs and interests of everyone impacted. In this case, a team of SMEs can together find a more effective solution with applicability to diverse needs. These groups can often be low-effort, ad-hoc working bodies that are disbanded once the specific issue is addressed.

When these groups have the right mix of members who are committed to the effort, they offer an array of enticing benefits:

  • Promoting a shared solution
  • Creating additional buy-in
  • Creating more engaged stakeholders
  • Uncovering  issues and best practices
  • Providing an additional communication vehicle
  • Accessing a larger group of resources—especially with the SME working groups

Successful governance bodies typically have one thing in common: they bring together trusted experts that stakeholders believe will fairly represent diverse needs and develop creative, common solutions. That spells buy-in for almost any effort.