Skip to main content

Tag: Business Analysis

Strategy Spotlight: 8 Things You Must do Better to Make Better Decisions

I have been thinking lately about what it takes to make decisions. Just recently I was presented with a situation where some major decisions will need to be made.

Ones that impact changes in business and careers focus and could mean going into a whole new direction. So you have to make the best decision with the information at hand for your organization. From that perspective I think there are eight things you must do to make better decisions.

1. Invest in decision making skills.

This is something that holds true today as it did ten years ago or more. I see this as a foundational skill that people need to learn, practice and apply. There are many approaches or methodologies that can be applied in the decision making process whether you are a traditional organization, project based, a committee environment or driven by the board of directors. Often the fundamentals of decision making are missing. Look at the environment and create an appropriate decision making structure.

2. Create time to think ahead.

Time, time and more time is something we don’t have. It has become a luxury that most people can’t afford. Yet making good decisions requires time to reflect and look at the road ahead. What if you are considering changing careers and decide to go in a whole new direction? This is a big decision. This applies to a business venture also. Change and transformation are difficult to do on a whim, often you are required to think and plan ahead. But don’t over think long term plans as things change around you quickly.

3. Know who you serve.

This is an important point to answer. I know a lot of business leaders and professionals who I am completely confident in their ability to get the job done, to move forward and make things happen. But, they lack an important insight and clarity of who they serve. Decision making is a whole lot easier if you know who you serve whether it is a specific target market, an organization or something else. I think it provides opportunities to make mindful decisions and improve innovation and creativity in solving problems due to clarity and focus. It does not matter if you upset the market because you know who you serve.

4. Question everything, especially the business.

I often get asked how I would approach a specific problem. I am in a meeting and someone sets up a scenario and wants to know my approach. Any good business analyst, trainer or consultant will know the basics; define the problem, evaluation solutions, implement the approved solution, and measure the results. Part of the process is to question the business model. Recently I had this happen in a meeting with an executive director. I was presented with a question and responded but within that response I placed questions to better understand the business model of this organization.

Turns out they are looking for a change and the business model is suspect. It is always good to question, even when answering.

5. We can all think in a straight line.

Straight line or linear thinking is the a, b, c, of decision making. With so many organizations talking about innovation, creativity and being intentional I wonder what’s the point. There are many theories about what approach you should take. I still think the best approach to decision making and initiative integration is a mix between predictive and adaptive planning. These two approaches provide the best of both worlds, and when blended, often provide an organization an approach that works beyond the mere linear.

6. Create a story around decisions.

Life is a story and you write it yourself. With every decision there is a story that comes from people discussions, thinking, making assumptions, determining impact and communicating the decision. Wouldn’t it be great if you could create a decision narrative that is beyond the old boring business report? People want to be part of the decision story that makes a difference thus bridging organization gaps. You should create decision making stories.

7. We are all moving at the speed of a click.

Over decades my career has been part of the professional consulting and service economy which has accelerated at lightning speed in recent years. When I look at the professions’ value stream I think we need to make better decisions around the downstream business environment. Clients no longer just order or buy stuff they engage now in a very different way where it becomes difficult to determine the ROI on business activities. Margins wither as the need to provide valuable free content increases making business decisions a challenge to make. No matter the business you are in, the accelerated service economy is impacting your business.

8. Find a tool, reduce your risk and get costs under control.

The strategic business analyst looks at the past, present and future of a strategic plan and approach and use financial analysis of NPV, IRR and ROI within your business case. But it is important to go further and look at risk with uncertainty analysis. This is something that I learned over time from various economic adjustments (ie: dot com bubble burst, corporate and accounting scandals, subprime mortgages issue, and resource industry collapse) I think uncertainty needs to be determined better. Business intelligence and uncertainty reducing tools can be used to assist in this analysis. My point, the business analyst can play an important part in helping organizations make decisions through embracing uncertainty analysis approaches and tools to help deal effectively with unpredictable times.

Final Thoughts

Big decisions are tough to make, especially when you have invested so much time and effort on your business or focus area. When you work in a space where you are building skills and helping businesses define their future, you start to realize that there are certain truths that exist. One truth, everybody wants to survive and be around a long time. The second truth, that there is always a purpose that needs to be achieved. Third truth, good decisions and core competencies take you a long way to creating a profitable future thus achieving the first two truths.

Top 6 Critical BA Skills for the Future (and today!)

As we cruise through the last days of 2016, it’s important to peek in the rearview mirror. Reflecting on the past reveals patterns and trends in our travels that we can use to predict future destinations.

When I look in my 2016 review mirror, I gather insights from deep conversations with industry leaders, real world problem solving with clients, and sharing ideas with students. These insights drive my thinking about the future of business analysis.
Can you guess where we are going? Do you know what skills you need to pick up along the way?
Regardless of title (BA or not) and approach (traditional, agile, or hybrid), everyone in the business of discovering, defining and delivering value can prepare for the future by developing the following skills:

1) Data Insights

Modeling and data relationships are moving to the back seat while data insights take the wheel. This means that we will be asked dig deeper into our data to discover insights that our stakeholders are not aware of and would be difficult, if not impossible, to elicit.
Data insights start with a comprehensive understanding of our customers and our business. Using our customer and business understanding we can look at data differently and analyze the customer patterns and behaviors. These patterns provide insights to where end users experience value in the product/solution itself and it’s features.

2) Requirements Anthropology

Data insights are critical, but data does not always give us the full picture. Requirements anthropology asks us to go beyond the data and the information we elicit from stakeholders. We need to develop an empathetic mindset that allows us to enter the world of our users and identify their behavior patterns. When we approach our requirements like anthropologists, we take a deeper look at the role the product or solution plays in the end user’s life, work and habits. It’s about observing behaviors and understanding where value is derived for a variety of user types.
An anthropologist’s work would not be complete with out looking at the entire ecosystem of how the user behaviors and patterns impact the preceding or resulting business process. Can business model or process changes improve the life of the user and ultimately the value the user receives? This is what requirements anthropology is about!

3) Visualization

The ability to create effective visuals has always been important, but the purpose of visual communication is changing. In the past, we used data in a visual form to prove a point or simplify a decision. Modern visuals are about concepts, exploring, and learning rather than the typical inform & declare process of the past.
We have a giant amount of complex information at our fingertips, so we need to think harder about the purpose of each visual. Effective visualization skills (with the help of many new visualization tools) help our teams make sense of the vast and complex information, and help us along the learning journey to gather insights about where value lies. The complexity of today is making this learning journey an imperative! Insights regarding value are no longer obvious, they are the “needle in the haystack.”

4) Forensic Thinking

Forensic thinking helps teams get to the root of complex problems by applying a scientific approach. Forensic thinkers use a logical process to confirm the problem’s cause by direct observation, examination and/or objective measurement. This approach helps BAs gather meaningful, accurate requirements rooted in facts rather than stakeholder perceptions or assumptions.
An important focal point for our forensic thinking is the customer experience. Modern teams use forensic thinking to explore customer patterns. Forensic thinking also aligns well with solutions that prevent and investigate fraud and digital/cyber crimes.
So, what does forensic thinking look like? It involves going far beyond what stakeholders say or think they want or need and truly looking at various resources, tests, data, and connections that build upon one another to get to the learnings that ultimately provide insights.

5) Data Security

In the past, data security skills fell on the shoulders of our techie teammates. Now BAs need data security skills too! We need to understand which data assets are most valuable to the organization, and help the organization weigh decisions about protecting this data. If teams protect data too fiercely, they may compromise business performance. Think about the customer who abandons a purchase because the app wants too much data or takes too long to authenticate. Or think about the internal user who abandons core systems to use an “unauthorized” program to meet customer needs and business goals faster.
As BAs we need to understand these dynamics and be prepared to discuss the impact data decisions have on solution requirements, solution design, user/customer experience, and risk to the organization. We need to understand the value of data and the possible risk/reward trade-offs.

6) UX – User Experience

UX is changing and new UX skills are coming into play in this digital era. The huge migration to mobile and tablet devices over web/PC screens will grow as we rely on our devices more and more. This means more UX-related projects and product development for BAs. Responsiveness, modular design and service design are key. BAs with UX skills understand how the UX design features play with all technical layers.
Other key areas of UX include customer experience mapping and rapid UX work. This means understanding the business model and processes very well in order to design a UX that supports the strategy, business model, and flow of the most critical pieces of value.
Formal wireframes are fading out in favor of quick hand-drawn lo-fidelity sketches that go straight to the build process for quick feedback from users. It means more collaborative design sessions instead of reviewing wireframes. BAs who want to keep up with UX will also need to acquire persuasive design and user-centered design skills.

Are you seeing increasing demand for these six skills in your organization? They shine a bright light on a giant shift in our thinking about business analysis. In many organizations, BAs focused largely on analyzing internal systems and processes. Based on my discussions with many of you this year, BAs are increasingly looking outside. They uncover value by analyzing the end user’s environment, thinking, patterns and behaviors.
Don’t get left behind! Develop skills that fuel the future.
Please leave your comments below.

Deep Dive Models in Agile Series: Decision Models, Edition 6

This short paper series, “Deep Dive Models in Agile,” provides valuable information for the Product Owner community to use additional good practices in their projects.

In each paper in this series, we take one of the most commonly used visual models in agile and explain how to create one and how to use one to help build, groom, or elaborate your agile backlog.

This is the last paper in this current series and covers Decision Models, which include both Decision Trees and Decision Tables. Previous articles in this series included Process Flows, Feature Trees, Business Objectives Models, Business Data Diagrams and State Models.

What is a Decision Model?

Decision Models include two RML System models (Decision Trees and Decision Tables) that detail the system logic that either controls user functions or decides what actions a system will take in various circumstances.

Like the State Models, these two models are covered together in this paper because they show the same information in different formats. Oftentimes a PO or BA will use only one or the other of the two Decision Models based on circumstances. Decision Tables are used when the PO or BA wants to ensure that every permutation of applicable decision choices has been explored. Whereas, Decision Trees are more consumable for business stakeholders and are typically used to show a collapsed view of a Decision Tree by only modeling the decision choices that lead to an outcome. Decision Models are great for any project with logic that the system needs to enforce and even as the acceptance criteria for the user stories in some cases!

The Decision Table is the tabular format of decisions and their outcomes with each column in the Decision Table representing one potential permutation of decisions in the system. The Decision Table contains three main areas: the conditions (or decisions), the outcomes, and the columns where each permutation of each decision choice is listed with the appropriate outcomes marked. This model is read vertically (see example below) in that the user will take one column and read down: “If Condition 1 is choice 1a, condition 2 is choice 2a and condition 3 is choice 3a, then outcomes 2, 3 and 4 occur. The vertical columns each represent a business rule for the system.

Hokanson 121416 1

A Decision Tree, like the State Diagram, is a more visual way to show the decision logic in a branching tree format by only showing the decisions and choices combinations that lead to an outcome in the system. This model is great for verifying branches of system logic with business stakeholders. See the example of a decision tree below:

Hokanson 121416 2

When would I use a Decision Model on an agile project?

There are two main use cases for Decision Models on agile projects. One is to detail specific pieces of system logic for a user story. In this case, the Decision Model is identified and created for the user story it supports about 1-2 sprints ahead of the sprint the decision logic will be implemented in. The PO or BA would identify that a user story requires the system to execute decision logic to come up with a response for the user. This can be identified by the PO or BA during elicitation if she hears words like “If the user does X, then the system does Y, etc.” From there, the PO or BA would elicit all the possible decisions that occur in the system and walk systematically through each combination of decision choices in a Decision Table to ensure that all outcomes are accounted for. Optionally, a Decision Tree can be created to ask questions of business stakeholders and complete the system logic.

The alternative use for using Decision Models on an agile project is to identify and represent the acceptance criteria. Acceptance criteria are often written in the Given-When-Then format. “Given a certain precondition in the system, when some trigger occurs, then the system will take some action or display some response.” This aligns very well to a Decision Table as the preconditions and triggers can be modeled as decisions or conditions, and the outcomes are still outcomes in the Decision Table. One caution here is that if written acceptance criteria already exist in the Given-When-Then format, the PO or BA usually does not need to create a Decision Table to model the acceptance criteria. This technique would only be used on larger stories where the precondition list or trigger list is longer (3-5), and thus the number of combinations of preconditions and triggers is higher. In this way, the PO or BA can be sure that every path in the acceptance criteria has been explored to find any needed system response.

How do I create a Decision Model?

The first step in creating a Decision Model is for the PO or BA to identify all the decisions being made by the system for a particular outcome. This can be a list in the Decision Table or decision diamonds in the Decision Tree. Typically, a PO or BA will start with a Decision Table and move to a Decision Tree as needed.

After brainstorming the decisions in the system, the PO or BA has to identify all the applicable choices for each decision. Decisions can be binary (Y/N) or non-binary. If the decision is non-binary, the PO or BA needs to check that the decision choices are Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive (MECE). This means that all choices are accounted for and that there is no ambiguity in choices (if a number is a non-integer, choices like 1, 2-5 and >5 would not meet MECE and instead, the PO or BA would need something like: <1, >=1 to <5, >=5). For this reason, a lot of POs/BAs prefer to use binary decisions, but it can complicate a table or tree.

Finally, the PO or BA walks through each combination of decision choices and identifies the appropriate system outcome for that combination of decisions. See the example Decision Table below:

Hokanson 121416 3

In this case, if the listener chooses not to select artists, then the system cancels station creation and doesn’t care about the number of artists chosen. In Decision Tables, this case, where the choice of the decision or condition doesn’t matter, can be shown as a “-.“ Additionally, Decision Tables can show ordered outcomes by using numbers in the outcomes (i.e. 1 and 2). For example, in an e-commerce site, when a customer wants to use a gift card to pay for something, the system may first (1) deplete all funds on the gift card and then (2) ask for a second payment method if the gift card did not cover the full cost of the order.

Decision Trees show this same information in a branching tree format using the same elements as the Process Flow: steps and decision diamonds, except the steps are now steps the system takes in the form of outcomes. As mentioned above, Decision Trees are usually created after Decision Table to verify the decision logic with business stakeholders. However, if the PO or BA decides to start with the Decision Tree, the process for creation is essentially the same: 1- brainstorm the decisions, 2- identify the choices and 3- walk through the decision/choice combinations to arrive at outcomes. See the example below:

Hokanson 121416 4

How do I derive user stories out of a Decision Model?

Decision Models usually supplement user stories to ensure that all paths are identified, so they usually lead to additional acceptance criteria. Each Decision Model created will usually be for a single user story, and each permutation of decisions and choices is one acceptance criteria. For example, if we had a story of:

Hokanson 121416 5

With acceptance criteria of:

Hokanson 121416 6

The PO or BA might see the need to create the Decision Models above to ensure that all acceptance criteria are accounted for, which would identify the following acceptance criteria:

Hokanson 121416 7

These models are great for identifying missing acceptance criteria (and thus test cases) that might trip up an agile team and cause a story to “Fail” a sprint by not considering exception cases in the acceptance criteria.

Conclusion

Decision Models are great models for POs or BAs to use when they are unsure they have properly captured the acceptance criteria for a story. These models allow the PO or BA and business stakeholders to be aligned on the system logic and expected system behavior before a story is taken into a sprint which allows the PO or BA to give better information to the agile team.

This concludes the Deep Dive Models in Agile series. Over the course of six short papers, we have covered: Process Flows, Feature Trees, Business Objectives Models, Business Data Diagram, State Models and Decision Models. Which visual models do you use most on your agile projects?

7 Must-have Skills for the Business Intelligence Business Analyst

Business Intelligence (BI) is a top priority across the world: Gartner estimates that 90% of organizations have some form of BI capability…

with global BI spend for 2016 expected to reach 16.9 billion US dollars. Simultaneously, experts predict future demand for BI professionals to increase even higher than present, resulting from a future shortage. The time is rife with opportunity to explore specializing in BI. If data, information, and analytics interest you, perhaps it’s time to explore expanding your Business Analyst (BA) skillset to specialize in BI.

Related Article: 9 Key Skills Every Good Business Analyst Needs

The BI BA uses BA and BI tools and techniques to build BI solutions that align data, business, and technology to deliver actionable insights needed by the organization to support decision-making. The BI BA may be involved at various points in the BI lifecycle – from data sourcing and analysis to enhancing, integrating and presenting information – all the way to delivering analytics and actionable insights.

The BI BA role requires hard and soft skills. Hard skills are left-brain skills that can be learned through courses and experience, given an inherent or acquired aptitude. Soft skills take emotional intelligence, using the right-brain. While the well-rounded BI BA demonstrates a wide range of both these types of skills, there are a few essential skills that underpin the BI BA role that employers typically seek at a minimum. We see these as critical for the BI BA, over and above the traditional BA skill set – consisting of, for example analytical and critical thinking, problem-solving, technical writing and ability to facilitate workshops.

Starting with the hard skills:

1. Business Acumen

A fundamental skill for the BI BA is the ability to understand and converse in the business domain specific to the particular industry and organization they are analyzing. The BI BA needs a solid foundation of knowledge of the industry as well as the organization’s business model, strategy and objectives, its key issues and its competitors. Strong business acumen helps the BI BA as they follow a top-down approach translating the organization’s strategy into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), measures and metrics. This may be done for executive, management or operational levels to support strategic, tactical or day-to-day decision-making.

2. Data Analysis and Modelling

Ability to understand data and information and convert this into insights. The BI BA must be able to think conceptually, using high-level data models to conceptually map the real world of the organization. They also need a firm understanding of how data moves from operational source systems across the organization, through the various transformation processes, to where it is ultimately used by decision-makers.

3. BI-specific Software and Analytics Programs

Employers typically seek super-user level skills in Microsoft (MS) Office applications, specifically advanced Excel for analyzing and pivoting data, the ability to use Visio for data modeling and possibly also knowing SharePoint to build custom input lists. MS Access skills are less in demand, possibly only needed on specific projects where a client department may already be using this.

Proficiency in a query language, such as Microsoft SQL, is highly sought after by employers. The capability to see and analyze data helps with the much-needed hands-on and data-focused nature of BI analysis. It helps understand the format, grain and structure of the data and moves analysis from intangible to tangible, real-life examples.

Additionally, BI BAs working in the analytics space must know how to use Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) BI and analytics software applications. A good place to see what is relevant today is on Gartner’s magic quadrant for BI and Analytics platforms. As of February 2016, Gartner ranks Tableau, Qlik and Microsoft the highest in terms of leadership and vision.

4. BI Methodology and BI Journey

The traditional BA must understand the Systems Development Lifecycle (SDLC). Similarly, the BI BA must know both the BI methodology and BI journey for their particular department and organization.

In terms of BI methodology, the BI BA must specifically know: how requirements flow through BI development processes; key handover points, who the BI team members are and how to collaborate with them and; governance and maintenance processes required in operations after project conclusion.

The BI journey entails understanding the overall organizational approach to BI in terms of how the organization intends to move from maturity to maturity level, the technological platform and tools it plans to use to do this and what organizational structure it sees of use in getting there.

On the side of the soft skills:

5. Big Picture AND Detail Oriented

Paradoxically both of these skills are required. Often the BI BA is working in the minutia – the finest grain of data – and needs to understand this in all its subtle details. These may entail where it is sourced from, what are the transformation rules, who uses it, who owns it, etc. At the same time, they need to understand the organization’s vision, how this translates into the various strategic, tactical and operational level objectives and then how to translate the objectives into KPIs, metrics and measures that link to detailed data elements.

6. Ability to Navigate Politics

BI solutions typically cross a number of functional areas and departments, where key stakeholders may have their own agendas for a particular BI solution or may be fearful of or unwilling to share information. While the common mantra in business cases for BI solutions is “a single version of the truth”, the BI BA needs to be able to navigate politics such as turf wars between departments and key stakeholders and inability to define key business and data terminology.

7. High Tolerance for Ambiguity and Ability to Create Structure

BI scope and requirements are notoriously ill-defined upfront, emerging as further information comes to light through analysis. Additionally, data quality and structure are also not usually known upfront. The BI BA needs the soft skills to confidently manage through the fog, creating stability and structure for themselves, their BI team members and their business stakeholders as they proceed.

About the Authors:

Dr. Pam Clavier is a PM and BA with 16 years’ experience in IT and consulting. She has a PhD in Informatics and is certified as a PMP and CBAP. She can be reached at [email protected].

Harman Brar is a Director at Decision Streams. He has 22 years’ experience in BI, data warehousing and analytics. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree and is certified as an Oracle DBA, a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP, MCITP DBA/BI) and is a Certified Scrum Master (CSM). He can be contacted at [email protected].

References & Further Reading

De Jager, T., Brown, I. 2016. A Descriptive Categorized Typology of Requisite Skills for Business Intelligence Professionals. SAICSIT ’16. 
Gartner News Room. 2016.
Gartner Research. 2016. Magic Quadrant for BI and Analytics Platforms
Selig, A. Survey: What Employers Are Looking For in a Business Intelligence Analyst.  
The Business Analyst Body of Knowledge (BABOK) Guide V3

5 High-Impact Questions Every BA Should Be Using!

Success or failure often hinges on the questions we ask throughout the project lifecycle.

It sounds a bit dramatic, but I’ve witnessed it many times—a single, thought-provoking question that changed the trajectory of a conversation, opened a floodgate of new ideas, or magically simplified a complex problem.

Related Article: 7 Candid Strategic Questions Every Business Leader Should Ask

Great business analysts fill their toolbox with high-impact questions! BAs use these questions strategically. They figure out the right way to ask the question and the right way to gather the answers. They also consider the best time, place and audience for each question.

High-impact questions:

  • are difficult to answer
  • create moments of silence
  • inspire responses like, “Hmmmm, let me think about that…”
  • stir up emotions and politics
  • spark analysis
  • encourage stakeholders to provide context, solve problems, make good decisions
  • generate deep, meaningful, interactive discussions that spawn high-value systems, processes and products

5 Excellent High-Impact Questions

Tell me about your pain points and challenges with the system/process/product.

Yes, I know this is not in the form of a question, but this phrasing indicates your interest in details and deep discussion instead of a short, off-the-cuff list. Starting from a place of pain gives people a chance to get their frustrations on the table right away. It inspires storytelling that gives context to stakeholder concerns and creates a shared understanding of each stakeholder’s priorities.

If this system, product, process worked as good as it could, what would that look like?

This question approaches pain points and challenges from a positive angle and promotes problem-solving. Stakeholders will reveal their solution priorities and their definition of success. Use this question to brainstorm enhancements, features, or to diffuse disagreements about priorities, needs or decisions.

What are the top 3 things you would change?

This question can be used in multiple ways throughout the project lifecycle. You can use it in discussions about systems, features, products or processes, or you can use it to focus on internal processes and issues. This question works in the initial stages of the project when you are defining needs, and is equally useful during a retrospective or “lessons learned” discussion. It also works well evaluating how a current or newly implemented solution is working regardless of if changes are being asked for.

Asking users to limit their change list to 3 items, forces stakeholders to prioritize and focus on what’s most important. Be sure to spend time diving into the why for each item. When stakeholders reveal their top 3 things and explain why, you will begin to understand their values, priorities and pain points. You’ll also begin to see how each stakeholder is connected.

What things would you make sure not to change?

This question works well when you need your team to focus on the positive. It reveals what each stakeholder appreciates about the current process, system or product. You begin to understand stakeholder values and priorities. You discover stakeholder fears and define innovation boundaries. Digging into the why of each “please don’t change this” item, will uncover stories (requirements in context) of what’s working well and might spark ideas for enhancements or new products/processes/systems. You might also find conflict here…things in this list might also be in the top three that others want to change, which generates good discussion.

If the project or enhancement does not happen, what impact would that have for you?

This question, when discussed in a group setting, pulls each stakeholder out of their silo. They begin to discover gaps in their understanding of the big picture. As the stakeholders reveal their needs. Some may discover they do not need to actively participate in the project. Others may discover they underestimated their impact. This question often generates meaningful examples and scenarios that stick in people’s minds much longer than words in a giant requirements document.

Benefits of High-Impact Questions

High-impact questions provide multiple benefits that tip the project balance to success. Here are just a few:

Silence: High-impact questions allow the stakeholder or group to think, go back in their mind, come back and be with a space in their mind to really process thoughts and come to conclusions. Silence helps us get better requirements that are better thought out. It reduces the risk of changing requirements by giving stakeholders time to dive below the surface requirements earlier in the project.

Trust: High-impact questions build strong relationships with stakeholders and users. Deeper dialog makes them feel connected and understood, which creates trust and boosts morale.

Ownership: High-impact questions help our stakeholders own their involvement in the solution. Rather than cast blame or incite conflict, high-impact questions help stakeholders communicate and articulate the real problem they want to solve.

Be Strategic

To maximize the benefits of high-impact questions, use them strategically. Consider the following:

  • Why are you using the question? What do you hope it reveals? How will it help your team boost end-user value?
  • Who should be answering the question? All stakeholders or just a subset? Users or management?
  • How will you ask the question and how will you gather the answers? One on one, small group, large group? Do you need to allow opportunities for introverts by using surveys or individual brainstorming on sticky notes, then sharing with the large group?
  • Can you use the questions to help stakeholders focus on the end user’s perspective rather than the team’s perspective?
  • If you are in a group when you ask these questions, take the time to observe body language. Who is agreeing with the speaker, who is disagreeing, who looks angry or frustrated? What does body language reveal about your stakeholders’ needs, values and priorities?

High-impact questions encourage teams to talk early and often—minimizing the risk of identifying expensive, show-stopping issues late the project. Use them strategically to help your team build the right solutions, faster! Test one of these questions in your next elicitation session and let me know what happens, or share your favorite high-impact questions below.