Interview of the business as a part of business research

Is it not enough just to talk about what kind of software business need? And which product we are going to sell with help of this software? Why does detail interview of business matter so much? Why UX designer needs a lot of information?

Seems like it will never be enough. Stakeholders are often like that: everything is clear already and you don`t need a business interview. “The client has already decided what needs to be done, has written down the solution, and now just wants someone to deliver: “A pound of design please and two bags of usability. Thank you very much.” (1) Stakeholders want to get solutions from UX designer, like patients are asking for cure from a doctor. And of course very often a patient has already read a lot about his disease on the internet, so he seems well informed and even uses a proper terminology. But if a doctor will just give a recipe the patient asked him about — what kind of doctor he is? Do you remember yourself attending the the doctor? Probably you knew everything about your problem everything. A doctor of any kind of specialization is also a good psychologist and has a high ethical level. He knows what to do with stubborn in a very delicate way.

”Supposing is good, but finding out is better.” — Mark Twain


We have already mentioned it before — a well-done UX process gives us a real benefit — we can organize a product or service in the way it will be profitable for each of sides — users and business. Also, employees experience and expert`s opinion about trends and future of product provide us tools that can be used to assess the risks in a full life cycle web application development. Data collected while interviewing of business will bring more Understanding of a user to a product development team. No guessing! Concentrate on right questions, that will bring you a key to right solutions.


PLANNING THE INTERVIEW PROCESS: STAGES

As you know — if you have a plan you can do everything. First of all, you are going to make an interview with stakeholders, an owner or the decision person. This is the universe of a business that you are going to search solutions for. Next step is coworkers and experts. Interview with them can give you extra info, that is not a must but important to have. Then you should make a workshop of processing of received information. And the last stage — turning back to the specific answers, that are still in need of discussion.


TALKING ABOUT SOLUTION IS NOT A SOLUTION-MAKING

Your goal in the interviewing process is to get the most useful and clear information. It seems like quite easy in theory but if you will face a stakeholder — be sure that the only thing that he or she would be able to speak about is a solution. Talking about a solution, about possibilities is really easy and it can take all of your time being with stakeholders. Sure, it is delightful to talk about such things as the super-puper result and cool trend features, but one must be remember — it is just talking. And “just talking” can bring you a huge problem in the future. While you are talking about solutions — you give your stakeholder a cup of poison. Yes! You are poisoning your interlocutor with illusions of well-done work. Oh! This is a big mistake. This is not a human-centered design, this is not a process of facing business needs. When you realize that your conversation with stakeholder is turning in talking about a solution — you should turn it back into the interview by questions.


REQUIRED STEPS TO WORK WITH STAKEHOLDERS

Before you will start to formulate questions make a small research of your stakeholders:

  • Identify and recognize stakeholders

Who are they? What kind of people? What is their behavior? How do they use to have a business with people?

  • Identify their authority. Priority

What is their importance? What is important for them?

  • Determine what is needed from each of them

What sort of information you gonna get from them?

  • Identify and agree on a communicative plan

How can you act with them? Which business protocol you need to choose to talk with them? Consider their mentality, national traits and cultural patterns of behavior.

  • Engage and organize stakeholders

Direct organization of the meeting: when, where and in what format. 


WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

In general, you should prepare yourself with information, that is available right now, before the meeting. It will be really annoying if you will spend your interview time asking questions that you can find answers to before the interview. Do not spend energy of your stakeholder for such stupidity. Be clever and clear. The interview is a chance to get the secret info, not the obvious one. So before interview, you should know:

  • Business Objectives
  • How the business works now
  • Business strategy to achieve goals
  • The goals we want to achieve with the product
  • Whom is the product created for (users)?
  • How and what problems does the product solve?

Benefits of such advance preparations are great. First of all, you are showing your stakeholders that you respect their business and you are really ready to know more. Also, you save his/her time and to made a “homework”. And of course it is much more pleasant to talk to somebody when he knows something already.


HOW TO FORMULATE RIGHT QUESTIONS: JOURNALIST TRICKS

We can use journalistic finds. To formulate higher-quality questions for the client. 

There are different types of questions and it is important to know how to use those formulas.

Direct: specific question will bring you to clear response.

Open-ended: starting with “why, how, what do you think about” and it is impossible to answer with “yes” or “no”.

Short: do not answer by yourself, do not make your question with answers inside. Your guessing can interrupt and irritate the stakeholder.

Respect the silence: if your stakeholder needs more time to answer — let him. Do not fill the space with unnecessary words. Let silence do its job. (2)


GENERAL WISHES AND RECOMMENDATIONS

While you are interviewing a stakeholder, employee or expert — try to monitor their psychological condition — are they okay with your questions? Do they feel comfortable? Maybe some of the questions are too deep and they are afraid to answer them? And remember — they are testing you also, because the question that we are asking is also showing our understanding of a topic. Of course, if you will ask a long-full-of-suggestions question — there will be no need to answer at all. If you noticed that your interviewer is more able to answer for some type of question more — reformulate all of them and make it more comfortable for him or for her. Listen up and empathize. Even if you have no time — make them feel comfortable with your deep attention and empathy. Also look around — to understand people better you should take a look at the whole picture — it will make you surer that you got the proper info. (3) If you are going to make your first interview — so make it with your mother-father-sister-brother. You should practice a lot before you will work with a real stakeholder.


THE RESULT OF INTERVIEW

At the end, you will have literally prescribed requirements of stakeholders and structured document with goals, target audience, and stakeholder`s wishes. You will know exactly what is needed for your customer and for his business. Here is a key of high profit and benefits of a future project, product or service. Collect this information accurately — it will be used a many times before you will launch an idea into a product. You will return to this answers at the very next stage of full life cycle web application development. You will remind yourself business needs when you will search for management or marketing solutions when your product development team will need a deeper understanding of what for and why they are making a product. And of course, when you will make a user research — you will compare and combine needs of both while you will make a clickable prototype.


References:

  1. Conducting an effective stakeholder interview. Philip Hudgson. More info here: http://www.userfocus.co.uk/articles/conducting-an-effective-stakeholder-interview.html
  2. How to interview like a journalist (no matter what your job is).Jory MacKay. More info here: https://crew.co/blog/interview-questions/
  3. How journalists can become better interviewers.Chip Scanlan. More info here: https://www.poynter.org/2013/how-journalists-can-become-better-interviewers/205518/