Matt Basile • August 25, 2023

How to write productive stakeholder updates as a product owner

Make the most of your updates.

Man giving a speech to a large audience

Stakeholder updates are a vital component of product development. They bridge the gap between the product team and subject matter experts.

Stakeholder updates typically come in a few different flavors. Sometimes they’re pure status updates, other times they focus on deep dives into product questions. So, like any good communication tool, they should work for you to express the most important things you want to communicate with your stakeholders.

In terms of cadence, we’ve found a lot of value in sharing stakeholder updates at the beginning of every work cycle. So, that’s usually a two week sprint, but sometimes we’ll have weekly cycles as well.

Putting everything together, when we write a stakeholder update we’re usually mixing and matching the following sections:

Let's dive into what we aim to convey in each section.

1. Recap of the Previous Week

The retrospective's intention is simple. Keep our stakeholders informed about what happened this past week. We aim to offer a transparent view into the features we launched and any challenges faced.

This transparency provides stakeholders with clear timelines and deeper insights. Which in turn, enables them to have more informed discussions with external parties.

As a tip, we like to use project management software to log our progress. This makes figuring out what we did a lot easier on us. Our favorite is Linear, but there are many creative choices available.

2. Plans for the Upcoming Week

Here, we pave the path for the future. By sharing an outline of the plan for the week, we can set clear expectations and align everyone on the same page.

This practice provides clear expectations for stakeholders and our internal team. With everyone on the same page,we can all focus our energy on achieving our goal.

We use a ritual called the Weekly Sync to help define this. We take 30 minutes to outline our team's collective objectives for the week. Creating this dedicated planning session has been tremendous for alignment.

3. Important Metrics

Like any business, errrrbody love numbers. I've never met a professional who didn't like see progress quantified in some way.

Important metrics get defined project by project. But, they should reflect the most important indicators of progress for that project. For example, for a newly launched project user signups might be a great metric. But soon, you'll want to make sure those users are engaging with the platform. So, you'll begin tracking how many items they buy or posts they generate.

The metrics can change but the principle remains. Track and share the metrics that are most indicative of growth on your platform. To achieve this, we've used tools like Google Analytics, Segment and custom API reports.

4. Asks from Stakeholders

No one has any time these days, especially individual contributors responsible for getting work done. Their day-to-day meetings on top of meetings in some sort of perverse GroundHog Day. All that to say, when we have their attention, be deliberate.

Our trick for that is bulleting out the biggest needs from them. We use this because it's easy to digest and it creates collective accountability. With this update as a centralized source of truth, we have a distinct artifact to point to if needs aren't met.

Most of the time stakeholders want to help build the product so they're responsive to these asks. Reserving this space lets them tackle daily tasks, and when they have a moment, their highest ROI tasks are at their fingertips.

5. Addressing Unique or Strategic Topics

Occasionally, there are topics that don't align with routine updates but are essential for stakeholders. Sometimes they'll need a follow up meeting or more context but we like to introduce them here.

These callouts can take many shapes. Here are some examples: - Operational: we need a new team member or piece of software. - Strategy: we need a marketing website, we need to migrate our technical stack, or are we finding product market fit?

Again, you won't need this section most weeks. But preserving the space will allow you to introduce these topics when you need to.

And with that, you now know how to write productive stakeholder updates! To implement this yourself, we have a Notion template you can try out! Follow this link and clone it now to get a solid template for your next stakeholder update. Feel free to tweak it for your use case, and share it with us on Twitter or LinkedIn!

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