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Asking Questions

Asking questions is a very important technique for any Business Analyst. Asking the right question will give you the information that you require and often help you elicit information that you didn’t even know you needed.

If you are looking for requirements for a software product or a business process remember the five W’s. If you are looking for the big picture or for an end to end process you should ensure that you know the Who, What, When, Where, and Why answers before you starting writing your requirements documentation. “How” questions generally follow to dig into the details of a project or process. If you are reading a document that may contain valuable information for a project, product or process, the 5 W’s can help you discover valuable information and aid you in creating a new set of questions to help you look for missing information.

There are two main types of questions – open questions and closed questions.

Open questions are used when you want to have a conversation or receive a detailed answer. Open questions usually being with them the who, what, when, where, why and how. Three types of open questions include objective, subjective and problem solving.

Objective questions are asked to get answers that contain facts about a subject. (How many databases does system X currently use)?

Subjective questions are asked when you want to get answers that contain opinions. (How many users will like the new system)?

Problem solving questions are asked when you want action items. (How do we get the data from system X to system Y)?

Closed questions are used when you want a quick response; usually a yes or no answer will do. (Can you have this BRD completed by Tuesday or are you able to review the RFP this afternoon)?

Closed question types can include selection, identification and yes/no questions.

Selection questions allow the user to select from a list of options or allow someone to give a preference. (Do you want to use a waterfall or agile model for this project)?

Identification questions help describe or define a subject. (What is the unique identifier for this requirement)?

Yes/No questions are quick and to the point. (Do we include requirement 2.1 in this phase of the project)?

Think about the type of answers that you want and tailor your questions around each question type. Remember that open questions will give you more description and provide opportunity for more discussion around your topic while closed questions will give you quick short answers. Take the time to think about your information needs and then ask the right question for best results.

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