• Teresa Bennett

Elicitation Questions To Ask Your Stakeholders

As Business Analysts, asking questions is an integral part of the job. After all, it's the primary way to elicit requirements and uncover business rules or processes.

However, the kinds of questions you ask will determine responses you receive. So how can you be sure you're asking the right questions?

Though different projects may require different questions, here are a few of my favorite elicitation questions to get the ball rolling:

1. What are the biggest challenges in your role?

A key part of any BA's role is to understand the context of the project. Asking stakeholders this question means they will share experiences that illustrate the business need and will communicate the value of the project to sponsors, vendors, testers, and developers throughout the project lifecycle.

Briefly stepping outside the confines of the project can also help you identify organizational risks, missing stakeholders, and requirement gaps.

2. What does success look like?

In the initial stages of elicitation, this question will help gather a clear overview of what capabilities are required for the project. This question can also be used in beginning to elicit requirements for very specific features and capabilities.

Focusing on success frames the discussion in a positive light, emphasizes benefits, and gets stakeholders excited about the value of the project.

3. Who do you think is impacted (positive and negative) by the project and how?

Identifying and categorizing the roles of various stakeholders is key to successful elicitation. In the initial phases of business analysis, understanding who is affected by the project will help you refine the scope of the solution and build your core team of stakeholders.

Asking this question throughout the project lifecycle will also help you identify new stakeholders, mitigate risks/constraints, redefine needs or identify new needs, elaborate requirements, and prioritize requirements.

4. If we don't change the way things are done today, what would happen?

This question is an improvement on "Why is this project important?" Framing the question this way will trigger stakeholders to define the current state without accidentally invoking a defensive response.

This phrasing will limit the "as-is" discussion to the processes and events that need to change.

5. What are other changes within the organization that may impact this project?

Most organizations function in a state of constant change. To avoid being blindsided, find stakeholders that understand how new strategies, policies, regulations, processes, and technology, might impact our projects. Keeping attuned to organizational changes can help to mitigate risks, estimate project deliverable dates, manage scope, identify constraints, and understand inter-dependencies.

Learn the ins and outs of elicitation when you enroll in one of our online training courses today.

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