Earlier this week, we discussed the top Salesforce requirements pitfalls costing you real money. Effective requirements gathering takes practice, patience and due diligence. However, it’s a vital step in the software development and implementation process. If the right requirements are not gathered to enable users to find value in the system, user adoption will be low and the project can fail.

Interviewing is a common and worthwhile technique used in software requirements gathering. An interview is another form of a meeting, and, in many cases, an e-meeting is a very productive way to conduct the interview. We recommend e-meetings because they can usually be recorded quite easily. GoToMeeting, for example, is a cost-effective meeting service that enables session recording. The interviewer and interviewee can share screens and content, including other application screens, reports, mock-ups and outlines.

Use Active Listening

Active listening is important to the interview portion of requirements gathering.

In order to conduct a successful interview, the interviewer needs a high level of enthusiasm, business knowledge and familiarity of relevant technical solutions and processes. This takes some preparation and experience so that the interview can be conducted effectively.

There are two main goals of the software requirements gathering interview:

1. Answer the basic “who,” “what,” “when” and “where” questions. The interviewer should gather and clearly document the wants and needs for a system in a particular area of the business.

2. Answer the “why” questions. The interviewee must gain understanding of the measurable benefits being pursued.

Below are some other interviewing tips for software requirements gathering:

1. Preparing for the interview

Before the interview, do some research so that you understand the reasons why the application is being considered and the benefits it might have.

Role-based requirements gathering is an excellent approach for requirements documentation. Software applications often streamline process flow from role-to-role for optimal productivity and quality. In the preparation phase, it is important to gain as much knowledge as possible of each process and role that exists in the affected areas.

Also, to keep the interview on track, prepare an agenda for what to include and exclude from the interview. Your agenda should include a purpose statement, schedule, participant list, discussion items and materials needed such as screens shots of other apps, reports and mock-ups.

2. Asking the right questions – the right way

Asking questions the right way is very important. A conversational rather than “cross-examination” style approach is best, because it promotes openness, collaboration and a positive tone. Watch for situations where the interviewee does not answer or avoids a question, intentional or not. To maintain positive progress, make sure the interviewee provides all necessary information.

See our list of sample requirements interview questions below.

3. Listening and interview flow

It is important to be very attentive to what is being said and to actively listen.  Keep good eye contact and provide gestures.

One of the mistakes interviewers make is formulating the next question in their mind instead of truly listening to what is being said.  Maintain good conversation flow through use of affirmatives such as, “I see,” “yes,” “I understand,” and “alright.”

Also, repeat your understanding back to the interviewee to validate your interpretation of the requirements.

Visualizing the process in your head, developing questions, listening and writing notes are challenging to do while the interview takes place, but that is why recording the e-meeting can be so effective. In some cases, interviewers can ask a colleague to serve as note taker.

Also, review all written notes and ideas right after the interview to correct or add information you may have missed the first time. If there are gaps and unanswered questions, follow up with the interviewee as soon as possible.

4. Confirmation

Requirements gathering is the process of eliciting, analyzing, representing and validating information about a proposed system. During the analysis stage, the information gathered from various interviewees and sources is combined and compared, and conflicts are detected and resolved. Therefore, it is best practice to confirm requirements during the interview, not later.