Arun Nithyanandam –
When you kick start a project, you’ll begin with the discover phase—sometimes also known as the requirements phase. This initial step frequently involves an exhaustive stakeholder analysis. In our experience, this first phase often determines whether the project will be a success or a nightmare. If a project launches without a proper stakeholder analysis, the system’s requirements will not align with the actual needs of the business users.
Asking Relevant Questions
The stakeholder analysis can be a tricky phase of the project. If you ask relevant questions, you will get the answers you need. More importantly, you will over the stakeholders, and identify the relevant requirements.
However, if you don’t ask relevant questions, you will come across as someone who doesn’t understand the stakeholders and their needs. People will perceive you as unsure of yourself. You may even come across as inexperienced.
During the stakeholder analysis, you have the potential to “discover” requirements which will really be in–tune with the actual needs of the business users. How do you get great responses from stakeholders? If you’re a naturally-gifted interviewer, you could use this skill to elicit great responses. Similarly, if you’ve got decades of experience, you could draw upon your experience with similar stakeholder groups; you might even anticipate people’s needs before they express them. Certainly, natural talent or experience would make your life easier as the project leader.
However, we’ve learned that the best way to craft relevant questions is through intensive and thoughtful prep-work. There are smart ways to prepare relevant questions for your project’s stakeholders. We call this tool the pre-analysis cook book.
In this section, we’ll discuss how to write a cook book for a project, and we’ll share some sample questions.
Creating Your Cook Book
Your cook book will be developed for each project, and it will contain a nicely-drafted list of relevant questions that cove all the areas the project is designed to cover. The questions will be specific to the domain or industry of the project.
After you draft the cook book, you will send it to your stakeholders and ask them to fill it out and return it to you. You’ll want to receive their responses before you do the actual stakeholder analysis. This way, you will have some time to go over the responses and formulate your analysis questions.
In the scope of this blog, you will see some questions which are specific to certain projects. Don’t assume these questions must be asked for every project. Instead, we’re giving examples of what you could do with the cook book.
When you create your cook book, you must apply it to your specific subject area and domain. Remember, the cook book will contain many questions. You should not expect any one person to answer all of the questions. So, when you send the cook book to your stakeholders, be sure to identify which questions each person should answer.
Next week on these pages : The Anatomy of a Pre-Analysis Cookbook – Part 2: Nuts and Bolts
About the Author
Arun Nithyanandam is a Strategy and Management Consultant based in Silicon Valley. Arun has managed multiple multi-million dollar IT projects in US and Europe across verticals. His current focus areas are Enterprise Contract Management Systems (deploying Nextance proposal-to-revenue and source-to-savings solutions to help companies improve financial performance and lower risk) and Enterprise Content Management Systems. Arun works with CIGNEX Technologies, a provider of Open Source based enterprise content management solutions.
During his spare time (if any) Arun enjoys hiking and reading.
Arun is currently working on a book (co-authored with Bill Sherman) code named “Managing Multi-million dollar projects” to be published in 2008.
For the collection of all Arun’s articles, please visit Squidoo Lens Arun Says