Turning Stakeholder Interviews into Conversations

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Verna Jenniker talks with Dorothy Mhlanga about interviewing, and how it is one of the most valuable techniques for building rapport with your stakeholders.

Verna Jenniker is an IT Manager at Old Mutual. She has extensive experience in, and equal passion for business analysis and software testing. 

What is your favourite business analysis technique and what is it that you love/value about it?

My favourite technique is interviewing. It allows for opportunities to establish a rapport with the interviewee with relative ease. This technique not only enables the business analyst to “read” the interviewee and react accordingly throughout the interview, but it also helps set the tone for future engagements. The interview facilitates structured, as well as free-flowing conversation.

In which situations or at which point in the business analysis process do you typically use interviewing?

My personal preference is to conduct interviews where there are fewer than six stakeholders to engage.

Depending on the situation or project, interviews are best conducted shortly after receiving the project brief or after initial introductions to the stakeholder or client. I feel it’s important to prepare sufficiently for the interview by gathering as much information as possible about the interviewee, structuring an approach and defining relevant questions to pose during the interview. 

How is this technique particularly helpful/relevant for business and project stakeholders?

Interviews facilitate the elicitation of, and conversation around requirements, first-hand. It leaves little room for speculation and reduces the risk of assumption on either side. This, however, depends on how prepared the business analyst is ahead of the interview and the type of questions posed to the interviewee. 

Why do you choose this technique over other techniques that can achieve similar results?

The opportunity to connect with the person sitting opposite you is far greater than with any other elicitation technique. I find it easier to establish a level of comfort and trust when meeting face-to-face and on an individual basis.

That said, other methods of conducting an interview, e.g. via telephone also offer the benefit of connecting with an individual more easily than through a workshop, for example, but not as much as with face-to-face interaction.

What advice do you have for other people using the interviewing technique? Do you have any tips to make interviewing spectacular?

Be prepared; be clear on what you want to achieve with the interview and decide how you’re going to structure the session. Know who should be invited and choose a location suited to your interviewee. It’s very important to ‘read’ your interviewee throughout the interview and adjust your approach accordingly. 

Turning Stakeholder Interviews into Conversations’ with Verna Jenniker was first published in the Inter-View Report 2017

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About Dorothy Mhlanga

Dorothy Mhlanga is a consultant at Saratoga specialising in business analysis, whose main areas of interest are system design and agile project delivery.

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