Who should I interview to gather requirements?

There are so many people involved with this project that I can never talk to them all and stay on schedule. Who should I interview to gather requirements?
Interviewing the stakeholders is a wonderful way to gather requirements and get to know the stakeholders' personal perspectives and biases. But knowing who to interview and how to factor their input into the requirements can be tricky. A good way to begin is by reviewing the organizational chart, with special attention on the business areas that link to the stated business problem(s) and/or project objectives. When selecting people to interview, it's good to choose those who "own" the business process—that is, those who can approve process changes, or whose role is directly accountable for the success or failure of the process. Also, it's important to interview the people or persons who "do" the business process—those whose job functions play an active role in the critical (or impacted) parts of the process. If you're working on a customer-facing application, be sure to interview people with first-hand knowledge of and experience with the customers. Remember to ask the project sponsor for recommendations about who to interview. They may also be able to give you a fresh perspective on the business stakeholders, and shed some light on any political issues that might impact your interviews.

When interviewing, include questions that will help you understand the personal traits of the interviewees, to ensure that you're getting the whole picture. If you'll be choosing interview subjects from a team of people who all do the same kind of work, try to choose both individuals who've done the work for a long time and some who are newer to the role. Try to interview a subject who has a positive attitude toward change and someone who is more change-resistant.

Pay careful attention to any political nuances and sensitivities. Some stakeholders will believe their viewpoint is the only one that truly matters. Some may feel slighted if they're left out of the interview process, even if you interview someone who represents their team. Negative feelings can linger and affect your interactions with those stakeholders later.

Finally, help people form positive expectations about the interviewing process. Try to set an objective, businesslike tone. Make sure everyone understands who will be interviewed, and why.

After determining who will provide input on the requirements, you can decide on a strategy to gather the information. Will you use individual interviews, small group interviews, or larger group requirements workshops? Don't be surprised if you end up realizing that you need to use all three. Our Requirements Interview Checklist can help you sort through all of these details and more, so you can build the best possible requirements gathering strategy for your specific situation.

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