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.
Simple but essential questions: Who, What, Where, Why and How
Capture the relevant and important details about the project
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
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!
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
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
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’ 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
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
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
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
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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