Interviews are one of the most popular business analysis techniques. They can be used to verify facts, clarify ambiguity, trigger enthusiasm, engage end users, identify requirements and solicit opinions and ideas.
BABOK V2 defines an interview as a systematic approach for eliciting information from a person (or a group of people) in an informal or formal setting by asking questions and documenting the responses.
I’ve emphasized some portions of that definition to show the key things that should be considered during an interview. Are you interviewing one person at a time or a group of people? Are you thinking of using an office space or a cafe? What questions will you ask? Who will document the responses and how will it be done? These basic questions should be answered to increase the chances of success.
Though commonly used, interviews are not ideal for every situation. For example, where the objective is to get the opinions of a group of people, workshops or brainstorming sessions are more appropriate. The main challenge of using the interview technique usually lies in organising and conducting the interview session effectively. Good human relation skills are needed to ensure that the analyst can deal with different kinds of people.
So, why opt for an interview above other techniques?
- Interviews offer the analyst an opportunity to establish rapport and trust with the interviewee. By conducting a face-to-face meeting, the analyst can start a cordial relationship with the interviewee to make them feel involved in the project.
- Interviews allow the interviewee to respond freely and openly to questions, especially when the location is private.
- Interviews provide an opportunity for the analyst to ask follow-up questions or re-word the question to get instant feedback from the interviewee.
- Interviews present an opportunity for the analyst to observe non-verbal clues. It is not everything that an interviewee can put into words.
What are the cons of conducting an interview?
Interviews can be time-consuming to prepare for. In most cases, the analyst has to spend a significant portion of their time preparing the interview questions and gathering as much background information as possible. Asking questions has to be carefully planned to ensure the analyst gets the most out of the interview session.
Training is often required to conduct effective interviews; the effectiveness of interviews naturally depends on the interviewer’s knowledge of the business domain.
Interviews can also be costly especially where stakeholders have to be interviewed one at a time or where the analyst has to travel to another geographical location to interview stakeholders. In some cases, the geographical dispersion of stakeholders may make it impossible for them to be interviewed via a face-to-face meeting. For such scenarios, interviews can be conducted using web conference facilities or via telephone.
The outcome of interviews is largely dependent on the analyst’s human relation, personality, and influencing skills. Where these traits are lacking, the interview results can turn out to be extremely poor.