If you are meeting or contacting stakeholders for the first time and trying to understand their world, you need structure. By structure, I mean a framework of questions to channel the direction of the conversation or requirements elicitation.
I was invited to prepare a business process documentation for a client who was based in another country. Traveling to meet the client was not an option. Though a Skype call could have helped, I didn’t want to go in blind. I didn’t have to ponder for long, however. My client requested for a questionnaire.
Though the questionnaire I sent him focused heavily on questions targeted at process definition and improvement, I was also able to gain some insight into the functional requirements that would need to be implemented for the process to be automated.
By the time the client sent in the completed questionnaire, I had a deeper understanding of what was going on with the process and could already highlight the main areas of improvement. Whether you’re a new or experienced business analyst, it’s always important to have some structure - a framework of questions to refer to whenever you need to ask questions or analyse a situation.
I’ve found that this framework can help channel the right questions to the right persons, and in the right format. Though there’s value to having open-ended conversations, having some information or understanding beforehand is certainly important to following open-ended conversations. This background information can easily be derived using questionnaires or surveys, especially when dealing with dispersed stakeholders.