Business Process Analysis Template #2: Engage and Learn with Interviews

Interviews with stakeholders and business owners are a critical piece in the data gathering and analysis portion of a BPA project.

By Cathy Dew

In case you missed it, here are the first three blogs in our series on business process analysis templates:

This week we look at the interview...

Interviews with stake holders and business owners are key to your success

Effective interviews with business process owners are critical in the data gathering and analysis portions of a Business Process Analysis project. The reason interviews are important to a successful project – whether for an internet or intranet adaptation – is due to the insight gained from each stakeholder and participant.

In general, the following insights and results may be documented:

  • Clarification what activity is being analyzed
  • Identification of the people/stakeholders involved
  • Documentation and analysis of findings
  • Development of common sense models

Identifying participants in a target business process is essential

It is crucial to make sure that you are talking to the folks that are actually doing the work in the target business process being analyzed. Stakeholders on the other hand are the people with the responsibility for either managing, performing, placing essential requirements on, or receiving benefit from one or more of the business functions or processes being documented.

In situations where a business process which requires multiple points of communication, it is possible that the interviewee is both a stakeholder and a participant. These can be two very distinct roles and may require distinct questions based on participation.  While a stakeholder may be more interested in the outcome, a participant is intimately involved in the execution. A participant is operationally required to perform one or more activity in a given business function or process based on the direction, training and guidance of another. A participant may also be classified as a major or minor depending on whether their involvement is central or ancillary with respect to the business function under review. For example, an ancillary participant may be the timekeeper for data processors when the business process under review includes specific tasks performed daily.

When possible, begin the interviews with those stakeholders and/or participants who are believed to have the most complete understanding of the process being documented. These individuals are often referred to as “SME's” or Subject Matter Experts. Schedule interviews with the people required for the top three most frequent business decisions affecting the job function.  Make sure to clearly define and document any and all terminology specific to the nature of the jobs performed be captured. These include acronyms, aliases and other business process or function terms unique to the science, tasks, expertise involved. If you do not understand something, ask the interviewee for a definition.

Send out a questionnaire in advance

In preparing the interview questions, suggestions for optimum insight include sending the questionnaire in advance while leaving enough time to review the responses. This helps in the formulation of more meaningful questions during the interview. It is beneficial during the interview process to ensure that all interviewees are comfortable, respected, and know that you have their best interests at heart. For reference please click here to download a sample interview questionnaire template.

A good interview can help you learn

Asking the right questions allows for understanding of the issue or problem area that may have been identified by your audience or by underperforming aspects of your site. Questions can be generic as they relate to all processes across the company intranet; others will be specific as they pinpoint a particular interaction within an area. Ensure that the complete task description includes steps in the process, pain points, what works and what does not work well. Finally, the point of the interview questions is to trigger thinking and move forward.

Tips for a conducting awesome interviews

  1. Prep the Interviewee by sending questions in advance
  2. Conduct the interview in person if possible or video conference
  3. Go to the interviewee's workplace when possible
  4. Listen, listen, listen.Focus on what is being said, not on the task of completion
  5. Tape record the session in order to be fully present during the interview
  6. Be sure to ask specific questions for each sub group, such as department, management,
  7. It is important to observe the nuance evident in the work space, such as the physicals files on their desk, what support materials are in view, and what action the process owner conducts offline.
  8. Be sure to ask what is necessary to do the job including what resources are necessary and where any sticking points lie if any.

Documenting the interview

Compile and consolidate all interview notes, documenting the results in a meaningful way. This typically includes back and forth of questions confirming information with the interviewee. This part of the exercise also builds trust with the process expert, by engaging them as the experts and then demonstrating your understanding of their process or job task in the final summary of the interviews. Plan to present summarized findings to interviewees and to revise findings based on feedback. Based on what you learned, create a model that helps develop a mission success statement for the business process. Building a relationship with key players as part of the project is critical to the success of a project such as this.

In so doing, details of all aspects become evident which helps to build your case for a potentially better system. All circumstances in various projects are different, some are positive, some hostile, employees may be worried about job security, and may not be as open and forthright as the process requires. In the end, there are several outcomes necessary to completing a successful interview portion of the business process analysis.

  • Learning and engaging to determine a better process
  • Managing expectations realistically; not being able to fix it all
  • Listening is the main goal
  • The interviewees are the most important part of the process
  • Focus on the work not the technology during the interview process

Once the model is complete, you are ready for the next phase and the next business process analysis template – see you next week.  If you need help on your next project, feel free to reach out to 2Plus2! Call us at (510) 652-7700.

Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.
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