10 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Business Intelligence Stakeholders

Alex Ring, Technical Manager, Trianz

As a consultant, I find myself on a regular basis surrounded by people with new problems to solve. I have spent the past several years working with teams and organizations of all shapes and sizes looking to get their hands dirty in Business Intelligence. I have learned that no matter what type of business you are in, there are common questions that you as a consultant should be asking.

Getting the right requirements from the right people on time can be daunting and cumbersome. The process can be ineffective if not approached properly. I use these 10 questions to illuminate what lies ahead and help elicit requirements that will make a product more flexible for future needs.

The moment to ask the right people the right questions for the right Business Intelligence Project can vary depending on your situation. But it can always be improved by further exploration. Using different questions and techniques to extract the correct requirements from your stakeholders will empower you to help them make better business decisions.

Using this process has helped me distill and curate solid requirements to deliver high visibility and functional reporting for my clients.
I challenge you to look at a past/current project you are working on and use one of these questions to see if you can enhance your perspective on the requirements. Bet you’ll surprise yourself!

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What problem are you trying to solve?

  • Simple but essential questions: Who, What, Where, Why and How

  • Capture the relevant and important details about the project

Who benefits from this information and how do they plan to use it?

  • We miss the bigger picture when we do not ask this question

  • Teams are often given directives to complete reporting projects with a vision from their managers. And that vision typically makes its way to the project team like a game of telephone

  • Understanding the overarching vision for the use of information is paramount to a successful implementation

Are you the end-user for this report?

  • It can be crippling to the process if the end-user doesn’t communicate their input to the team

  • A lot of people providing requirements are end-users of the report, but they’re not the only ones. You want to talk to other stakeholders, too!

What do you want to be able to do with this information that you cannot today?

  • Driving the creative process is valuable for getting everyone to think outside the box

  • Giving a stakeholder creative freedom inspires new ideas, solutions, and concepts for your reporting project

  • This question will surely keep your backlog full and healthy with new ideas and solutions to work on next

If the process were simpler and faster, what would you actively spend more time working on to benefit the organization?

  • It seems the same as number 4 but it prompts a very different answer. How can your time be used more effectively and productively?

  • Here, you are focusing more on productivity and stakeholder performance. What other aspects of their job will benefit from this project?

  • Answers to this question will help you drive ROI and Impact analysis for the project after it has been completed

Who else benefits from the work you do with this information, and how can we collaborate with those teams to expand the value of this intelligence?

  • There will always be another person, team, project that has looked at this before

  • Leverage that to spark a new approach to the project

The 5 Whys?

  • The ‘5 Whys’ is a technique used in the Analyze phase of Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology

  • It’s a great Six Sigma tool that doesn’t involve data segmentation, hypothesis testing, regression, or other advanced statistical tools, and in many cases can be completed without a data collection plan

  • This is truly more of an approach than a set of questions. Use this to dig deep and think outside the box about the requirements

Has someone already built anything like this that could help us accomplish your goals?

  • Do your research and ask around – there are likely SMEs in the business who can contribute

  • Another team may have already built something similar, attempted this, or has substantial groundwork to improve upon for reporting needs

When you close your eyes, what does this report look like on the back of your eyelids?

  • What do you actually want? is what you are thinking here but getting visual feedback from someone can be very challenging

  • Ask this question more than once. It has an iterative answer as stakeholders start to embrace the possibilities

Why do you want to see that in a pie chart?

  • Ok, haha, this one is for fun but has meaning. Do not be afraid to ask why and disrupt the conversation

  • Why do you want to use a pie chart? isn't a bad question. It opens the door to understanding how the user wants to process the information

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