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Mike Cunningham
Mike Cunningham

Asking the Right questions-Process Discovery

If you are an internal Business Analyst or consultant asking the right questions in a Discovery project is a critical skill. While it seems that a 10 or 20 year veteran seemingly gets those answers by some magical power, it’s really not that complicated. The experienced Business Analyst or Project Manager has been there many times before and knows how to build an good set of probing questions that will bring out the details.
For process discovery, you may already be a subject matter expert on the project, but often that’s not the case. In these situations creating a shopping list of items that will guide you to ask the right questions is very important. This list includes:
  • Identification of roles of those involved
  • Responsibilities for actions/tasks and decisions in the process
  • Outcomes and results from the processes in hand
  • Known problems with existing processes
  • Goals from management required from the Discovery project
  • The expertise level of the intended audience
  • Access to quality standards for the existing process
  • Clear separation of “current state” from “future state” questions
  • Identification of resources, guidelines and instruction locations and usage

This list can go on, but you get the idea. Unless you identify, who, what, how and when before you start the interview or information gathering process, you many need to re-interview staff because of your unpreparedness. Not a good idea. Plan your questions carefully, particularly when it comes to the interview stage of your Process Discovery project.

Original posted at Michael Cunningham's BPM Blog

This entry was published on Jan 21, 2011 / Mike Cunningham. Posted in Business Process Management (BPM) . Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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Wilco Charité posted on Monday, March 14, 2011 3:54 PM
Identifying who, what, how and when seems not enough to me. That counts also for the list of questions listed here.

Of course, you need to know as much as possible of the subject before interviewing anyone. Desktop research and of course, all things mentioned in the article. But, to really get to know what's happening, you need to talk to the stakeholders, however mucht you know (or not) in this recovery-proces. A problem could occur very difficult, solutions should be as simple as possible (Einstein).

When i put my first steps in ICT, i believe i was 22 then and started as a programmer, we learned about a very simple means to get to know what we want. First let your stakeholder tell about the context wherein the project runs . Maybe a second stakeholder, let him tell his story about his department and the situation he is facing. Forget about discovery in those first talks. Make it (almost) a nice chat. Don't ask questions about the future, just about the current situation, "tell it like it is" (that's a song).Simply let him talk and listen! And listen! You might already undertand the problem then. Evaluate the stories as spoken and write down what the stakeholders told you.

Is it that difficult then to mark the verbs in color number 1 and the nouns in color number 2? When you are a good writer, the stories tell you what happens (verb) with what subject (noun). Nice start for discovery? This should at least reduce the "re-interviewing" on the same subjects and asking questions twiice. Or, as Stephen Covey once said: "First understand, then be understood".

Kind regards,

Wilco Charité
Independent Business Analyst and Requirements Engineer

Wilco Charité
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