The Perfect Business Analyst Interview - 10 Essential Tips
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"How on earth can something be perfect? Perfection lies only in definition."
What I wanted to write about the BA interview process that is near perfect. It has stood the test of time for more than a decade with me as a business analyst.
Hence, I decided to subject the same to public scrutiny.
All of us know, interviews are the most common technique to elicit requirements. They offer multiple advantages, such as
Interactivity with the stakeholder
Build relationship with the stakeholder
Explore areas which BA may not have considered etc.
At the same time, this can be quite nerving for new business analysts.
Here is the 10 step approach I follow and have personally found it to be quite effective.
1. Introduce and break the ice
Interviews, essentially, are the interactions between two human beings. When one is able to establish a positive connection with the interviewees, interactions happen much better.
So when you meet the stakeholders for the first time, do not jump to discuss work in the very first minute. It's always good to know a little bit about the stakeholders. You can use any kind of icebreaker techniques which will help you to build rapport with the stakeholder.
For example, you can inquire about sports, music, hobby or any other aspect that the stakeholder has some interest (observe the stakeholders work area to pick some clue). Using this, you can build some kind of affair personal rapport with the stakeholder before you jumped into the actual interview.
Remember, if you are able to establish a positive impression of yourself in the very first interaction, it goes a long way in making sure that the stakeholder responds to your questions in a positive way. Stakeholders are willing to go an extra mile to help you in your elicitation journey.
2. Explaining the purpose of the discussion
The next thing that one should do is to explain what one is planning to achieve from the discussion. It's also a good idea if you can send a note to the stakeholders mentioning aspects that you may be interested in discussing. This allows stakeholders to have the discussion content ready before you meet the stakeholders.
3. Understand the existing process
This is something for any business analyst must do. The primary objective of the business analysis is to improve or automate an existing process. Understanding the existing process can be very helpful in terms of designing the solution. I would strongly recommend using flowcharting on a whiteboard which is very helpful in providing a glimpse of how tasks are carried out in the process.
4. Discuss the challenges of current process
Understanding the challenges of the current process is again a vital element for any business analyst. All processes that we run in any organization have definitely some challenges in terms of either effort involved in executing the process, or predictability of the process or product quality of the process.
There are multiple challenges that the stakeholders are grappling with and they expect the business analyst to provide a solution to the problem that the processes have.
5. Ask for existing policies, processes, templates and reports
Ask for what the stakeholders are using at this point in time in terms of any documented policies, processes, or templates and reports. What we try to do is to ensure that whatever information is being captured in these templates and reports also captured in our information systems.
6. Understand business rules
All systems help us to better implement business rules. We human beings always find it difficult to remember and apply all the rules that the business would like us to follow. Applications can have built-in rules validation which would ensure that the transactions do not violate any of the corporate policies or rules that the business would like to have.
Talking about all the business rules that the business is following, remember business rules are little debatable subject because of rules might be archaic and they may need to be removed or replaced in different situations. But this requires a significant discussion with the stakeholders and sponsor in case you would like to modify existing business rules.
7. Identify users of the system
Other than the stakeholders that your meeting, there are bound to be other users of the system. It is good to ask the current stakeholder to identify other users of the system. The greater the number of stakeholders that you are able to identify, you will be able to figure out if there will be requirements for those set of stakeholders.
8. Understand interactions with other systems
Over the last 25 years of my work life, I have hardly seen in a system which behaves like an island of its own, which means it does not interact with any other system. 99.9% of the systems interact with other systems and it is essential for business analysts to understand the interfacing systems with the proposed or existing system and what kind of information flows between these systems.
9. Identify non-functional requirements
Elicit non-functional requirements because this is something most stakeholders stay very silent. This is primarily because many of them may not have a good understanding of non-functional requirements. As business analysts, we need to orient the stakeholders on non-functional requirements.
Have an exclusive session to collect the non-functional requirements. Remember changing functional requirements is easy and can be done pretty much in the Agile way. But non-functional requirements are hard to change and hence it is better than we get them clarified in the beginning before we architect the solution. This will ensure in future we do not run into a situation where the solution has to be scrapped because it could not satisfy certain non-functional requirements.
10. Thank the stakeholders for their time
Finally, always thank the stakeholder for their time and support. If you end the meeting on a positive note, you are likely to get better support from the stakeholders next time when you need it from them.
These are the 10 simple steps of the Perfect BA interview process that I usually follow when I do my interviews. I trust most of you would find value in this simple steps.
I will be very happy to get input from all my fellow business analysts if they have added some more elements to the Perfect BA interview process which makes there interviews much more effective.