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Interviews

What is it?

In an interview is a structured discussion between two or more people for the purpose of gathering information in a systemic way. The person conducting the interview, known as the interviewer, asks questions of the person or persons being interviewed, known as the interviewee.


Why do it?

Conducting interviews is one of the critical skills a business analyst should have and should constantly try to improve. Interviews are among the best ways to understand a business unit or process, determine scope, elicit requirements, determine stakeholder interests and goals, and explore solution options, to name just a few potential usages.

Interviews are preferable to surveys or questionnaires in that they allow the interviewer to immediately follow up on a response in order to clarify understanding or gather more information. They also allow the interviewee to provide more context and detail in their answer to a question than a survey or questionnaire might elicit. In addition, because interviews are usually conducted face-to-face the interviewer has the option to observe the nonverbal communication provided by the interviewee in response to questions.

 

How do I do it?

Conducting interviews for business analysis normally requires three different phases which may contain a number of activities within each phase. The three phases are Preparation, Conducting the Interview, and Follow-Up.

Preparation

The preparation phase consists of the following activities:

Research the Area Under Investigation

One of the first things the business analyst should do in preparing for an interview is to research the area under investigation to the greatest degree possible in the time that is available. This includes looking at things like operational manuals, user guides, policies and procedures, websites, and other readily available material that relates to the subject matter being investigated.

This is done for several reasons, including:

Identify Potential Interviewees

In this activity the business analysts identifies which potential interviewees are most suitable for providing the information needed about the area under investigation. This includes answering such questions as:

TIP: If you're familiar with the use of personas, you can create personas for different classes of interviewees to help ensure you are interviewing the best range of people as possible for the information you are seeking.

Contact Potential Interviewees

In this activity the interviewer contacts the selected potential interviewees, explains to them the purpose of the interview, determines if they are willing to participate in the interview process, and establishes the available dates and times to conduct the interview.

Specific interviewee's are then selected and interviews scheduled.

Design the Interview

In this activity the interviewer designs the interview for each interviewee who will take part in the process. Among the factors that go into design and interview are:

Note that the BABOK guide version 2.0 places this activity before the "Contact Potential Interviewees" activity above. However, I recommend this activity be done after you contact the potential interviewee in order to best tailor the interview to the amount of time and location available for the interview, as well as any specific information or requests the interviewee had when contacted about the interview.

Conduct the interview

Interviews should be conducted in three stages. They are:

The Opening

Each interview should be opened by:

The Interview

This is the stage in which the actual interview takes place. The interviewer may be moving through predefined questions during a structured interview or moving through topics or issues during a structured interview. The interviewer should be doing their best to engage in active listening and ensuring that the interview goals and objectives are met to the greatest degree possible.

During the interview, pause the process every once in a while to ask:

The Closing

At the end of the interview the interviewer:

Follow-Up

After the interview the interviewer conducts several activities, including the following:

 

What Should the Results be?

The end result of an interview should be organized information that relates to the area that is being investigated by the business analyst. This information could consist of potential requirements, process knowledge, organizational knowledge, or other information the business analyst needs or can use as part of the analysis effort.

Note that an interview IS NOT intended to validate requirements or to determine whether any requirements that are elicited during the interview shall ultimately be approved or included in the final solution. Rather, the interview should be used purely for information elicitation purposes only.

 

Advantages

Interviews offer many advantages to the business analyst in eliciting information. These advantages include:

 

Risks

Interviews also pose a number of risks that the business analyst should understand when using them. These risks include:

 

Tips

 

References

  1. REALLY GOOD REFERENCE! PDF: Successfully Interviewing Your Project Customer and Gathering Detailed Requirements. By Dr. Keith Mathis.
  2. BABOK Guide v2.0. Section 9.14 – Interviews. International Institute of Business Analysis.
  3. Article: How to Interview When Gathering Requirements. By Scott Sehlhorst. Tyner Blain. 2006.
  4. Book: Business Analysis Techniques: 72 Essential Tools for Success. James Cadle, Deborah Paul, and Paul Turner. BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT. 2010.5.
 

Other Resources

 

© 2012 by David Olson