Techniques for BI Requirements Gathering

BI Requirements Gathering often involves interviewing business people and IT to identify how to maximize the solutions you are working to implement.   The goal of the interview is to capture valuable information that will help define a robust solution.  Below are helpful tips and tricks for interviewing that everyone responsible for Requirements Gathering should keep in mind.

  1. Know your subject.  To ask the high yield questions, you need to know your subject and your interviewee.  Check the person out on LinkedIn and get to know his/her background.  This could provide areas that you have in common.  Also make certain you are knowledgeable on the subject matter or business area.  If you are interviewing people regarding an inventory system, make sure you know the basic jargon and acronyms used within that area of expertise.
  2. Come with a plan. Craft questions in advance to ensure you ask questions that start conversations rather than halt them in their tracks.  The best questions are open-ended. They begin with “How?” “What?” “Where?” “When?” “Why?” They’re conversations starters and encourage expansive answers that produce an abundance of information needed to produce a complete and accurate story.  But, stick to the script, and always ask one question at a time. Don’t be afraid to edit yourself midstream if needed by saying, “You know that’s a terrible question. Let me put it another way.”  Let your questions be a guide, but focus on the conversation.
  3. Embrace silence.  Silence is awkward for most people. When you ask a question, often times, the best moments come when you let a question float a beat too long. Shut your mouth. Wait. People hate silence and rush to fill it. Ask your question. Let them talk. If you have to, count to 10. Make eye contact, smile, nod, but don’t speak. You’ll be amazed at the information that follows. “Silence opens the door to hearing dialogue, rare and valuable in breaking stories,” says Brady Dennis of The Washington Post.
  4. Empathy.  If you can show sources that you have empathy — some understanding of their plight — they’re more likely to open up to you.
  5. Think in sound bites.  The most powerful quotes are short, sometimes just fragments of speech. Listen for dialogue, those exchanges between people that illuminate character, drive action and propel readers forward.  You will want to use these sound bites in your request for funding and project charters.
  6. Play dumb.  The person you are interviewing is an expert, they don’t expect you to be.  By conveying that they know more than you, you will play to their ego.  If they like you and know you aren’t as knowledgeable, they will often go to great lengths to help you.
  7. Establish ground rules. Make sure you set up rules, like how long you need for the interview, that you would like to record the conversation, the request for no phones, and how you will utilize the information.  This allows both of you to focus on the subject.
  8. Record it to improve.  Record your interviews. Transcribe the questions as well as the answers. Do you ask more conversation stoppers than starters? Do you step on your subject’s words just as they’re beginning to open up? Do you sound like a caring, interested human being or a badgering prosecutor? To be the best interviewer, you must learn from each experience.

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