I have been a business analyst for a long time, but I haven’t often been tasked with gathering business intelligence (BI) reporting requirements. My most recent assignment is heavily focused on this, and now I realize there are some distinct differences between gathering reporting requirements compared to software development requirements.
Simply put, business intelligence is all about giving the business the information it needs to measure success or failure, and to identify and respond to both threats and opportunities.
I started my elicitation in the way I normally would, by identifying the business lead and doing an interview. I quickly learned that I needed to adjust the types of questions I would normally ask, with a specific focus on what the business wanted to KNOW, rather than what the business wanted to DO. I prepped a dozen targeted, open-ended questions with that in mind:
- What are the KPIs and metrics needed to measure success?
- What are the critical business questions you need to have answered to run your business?
- What are the top questions you think execs will ask you?
- What business questions can’t you answer right now with existing tools?
- What different business “dots” do you want to connect?
- What are the existing analytic tools you have at your disposal?
- What reports, if any, do you use today?
- How do the recipients of these reports access and use the information?
- What other third parties are involved in doing analysis?
- What other business areas overlap with yours?
- Which systems contain the data that will be needed to answer these business questions?
- Who else should I talk to about this?
These questions got the business partners thinking about what they needed to know. With tons of data available from a variety of sources, I didn’t expect the business to know where the data would be coming from, but I did expect them be able to tell me what they wanted to know to manage their business. These questions helped them think about the answers.