Last week I wrote about how to analyze existing documentation to gather requirements. Today I am writing about how to use interviews to gather quality requirements. Most of you have probably used interviews in the past, but I hope this blog entry can provide some additional information that you may find helpful.

Interviews can be with one person or a group of people. It is important that if you conduct interviews in groups to make sure that one person does not dominate the conversation and that everyone gets a chance to respond. The way that interviews differ from brainstorming, requirements workshops, or focus groups is that they are a more formal interaction. A lot of preparation is needed before conducting interviews, but they can be a great source of information. There are three main phases to the interview process.

  • Prepare for the interview
  • Conduct the interview
  • Post interview follow-up and confirmation

Prepare for the interview

The first step is to understand what the goal of the interview is. Do you need information about one specific piece of a solution or are you basically starting from scratch and need a large amount of information? Once the goals have been defined it is time to identify who you will be interviewing. Who has the best and most current information out there on the subject you are interested in? Many interviewees may bring a bias to the interview. It is important to understand that bias so when you are analyzing the data you will be able to understand the true needs of the solution. After the interviewees have been identified it is time to design the interview. What type of questions should be asked? It is important that your questions are a combination of closed and open-ended. Asking too many closed questions may bring about short answers that do not really get at the heart of the matter. However, you may have questions that need very specific answers where a closed-ended question would work. The best location for interviews is face to face, but that may not always be possible. Wherever the location is it is important to set aside enough time for your questions so you will be able to get all the information you need and have time for follow-up questions.

Conduct the interview

After the preparations have been completed, it is time to conduct the interview. Before asking any questions state the purpose of the interview and state that notes will be taken during the interview and sent out to the interviewee(s) after. After asking your predetermined questions, make sure to ask the interviewee if they have any more information that was not brought out by the questions asked.

Post interview follow-up and confirmation

After the interview has been completed all the information should be compiled and then sent out to all the people who were interviewed. This provides information to each of the interviewees and gives them the opportunity to make sure everything is correct. The goal is not to confirm requirements at this point, but just to make sure the information gathered was correct.

Hopefully the tips above will help you when conducting interviewers as part of the requirements gathering process. It is important to remember that more than one technique should be used when gathering requirements so coverage can be as wide as possible. I would love to hear any other tips you may have about conducting interviews. Please email me with anything you would like to add.