Stakeholder Interviews

In plain terms UI strategy is a question based process.  It is the job of the UI Architect to gain explicit knowledge from the Business Owners and Experts to craft an application internal or external for the customer that will achieve their business goals.   In the process of asking these questions, the UI Architect can begin to understand the requirements for a new, improved, or implied Business need and begin to architect an application.

Think of your specific business, or project as you go through the questions below and you begin to form the base outline of an application, the people that need to be involved, and what exactly the Business needs.

Some questions may seem to repeat, or be asked in different ways, but are designed that way so that if an answer isn’t given when it was worded one way, it can be answered later in another way. 

I have been on calls and in conference rooms with initial stakeholders and had the “awkward silence” where Business Owners don’t know how to answer a question and they are unfamiliar with you, your company, or exactly why you are there.  So here is an outline of talking points and ways to prompt the Business Owners for answers.  Get them started, and take diligent notes.  I have crafted this document over many stakeholder interviews.  It has grown to encompass a lot of various Markets and Segments, and I believe it has been made general enough for any initial stakeholder interview.

Make notes of names of people in different departments who can answer these questions, or who on the call volunteered the information so you can follow up any lingering questions you may have later.  Also ask for names of people in the organization that have a direct interface with the end users, for their perceptions and use of the company products.  I personally take note of the Section, Question Number, and talking point (a, b,c).

Section One: Success Starts With Investigation

1.       What are your core products or services?

a.       Vision: long term, encouraging, aspiration for the future…

b.      Mission: purpose of the business…

c.       Values:  attitudes, behaviors, character of the organization to guide actions like an internal compass…

2.       What is your unique selling proposition?

a.       What factors and drivers are especially important to perform superior in your industry?

b.      What product or offering makes your company distinctive?

c.       What is your company most known for, or why has it become the application of choice?

3.       Who is your audience? 

a.       What are their pain points?

b.      Which customers and markets does your company target?

c.       What is the value proposition that distinguishes your company?

d.      What key processes gives your company the competitive advantage?

4.       What does your competition do? (Competitor Intelligence)

a.       Who are your key competitors?

b.      How do they perform?

c.       What are their strengths and weaknesses?

d.      What could be their strategy?

e.      How could all of this impact your business?

5.       What are your goals? (Stakeholder Analysis)

a.       What do your stakeholders expect from your company?

b.      What are the “Universal Objectives?”

                                                               i.      Profitability

                                                             ii.      Costs

                                                            iii.      Turnover

                                                           iv.      Sales

                                                             v.      Quality

                                                           vi.      Other?

c.       What are the key things the company MUST do to survive?


                                                               i.      More Sales

                                                             ii.       Improve Processes inside the business

                                                            iii.      Increase utilization of a Portal instead of a Call Center

6.       Who are your partners or internal resources?

a.       What is the human capital capabilities required to excel these key processes?

                                                               i.      HR

                                                             ii.      Accounting

                                                            iii.      Marketing

                                                           iv.      Sales

                                                             v.      IT

b.      What is your Marketing and Brand strategy?

                                                               i.      Do you have a “Brand” or “Slogan”

                                                             ii.      What is your company best known for?

7.       How does your target market do the following:

a.       Use the web?

b.      Use your technology?

8.       Where do your target users go online?

a.       How do they hear about your products?

b.      Where would they go to find reviews of your product/technology?

c.       What awards, reviews, or releases are there out there in the www?

d.      What kind of support (if any) is given via the web or phone?

                                                               i.      (Initial) Sale

                                                             ii.      Product/Application Support (installation and licensing)

                                                            iii.      User Support (integration and/or customization)

                                                           iv.      Training (online or in a classroom)

                                                             v.      Manuals

9.       How can you be an expert in the eyes of your audience to address their pain points?

a.       What factors and drivers are especially important to perform superior in your industry?

10.   What is the type of project you want to kick off?

a.       Dynamic Web Publishing

b.      Self Service

c.       Collaboration

d.      Intranet

e.      E-Business

f.        Enterprise Integration

Section Two: Success Continues with Exploration

1.       How can you position yourself to where your audience is?

2.       Who on your team can be an expert or voice of your organization?

a.       Who can best be termed an expert pertaining to the current and future customer needs, and the means to disseminate this intelligence across the organization’s departments?

3.       What ideas does your company have to go viral?

4.       What does your competition do poorly?

5.       How can you better leverage your offline resources?

6.       What are your highest aspirations?

7.       Who already reaches your audience that you may partner with?

a.       Market Segment Trade Magazines

b.      Market Segment Trade Websites

c.       Market Segment Universities or User Groups

8.       What internal initiatives are already in the works?

a.       What applications have been built in house?

                                                               i.      What platform do they run on, and what codebase?

b.      What applications does your company currently leverage?

                                                               i.      Outlook, SharePoint, Web Sphere, Life Ray, Open Source, iPhone Apps? 

(In general what platform are they seeking to develop and integrate)

9.       What internal metrics are available on how your users currently interact with your systems?

10.   Has there been any internal “Usability Testing” outside of developers testing their own code?

a.       Can we get that information and how will it be presented?

b.      Has there been any intrinsic knowledge gleaned from any Usability Studies?

Section Three: Success Progresses with a Strategic Decision

1.       What specific tactics will we complete for each strategy?

a.       Where are we now?

b.      Where would we like to go?

c.       How do we get there?

2.       What resource group(s) helps to determine the tactic of the strategy?

a.       Customer (facilitate their activities)

b.      Corporation (streamline or enable their activities)

c.       Competition (beat, meet or improve upon their strategies)

3.       What metrics will we use to judge the success or failure of these tactics?

a.       Suitability: Is there a sustainable competitive advantage?

b.      Validity: Are assumptions realistic?

c.       Internal Consistency:  Does the strategy fit the overall corporate agenda?

d.      Vulnerability: What are the risks and contingencies?

e.      Exiting: Defining criteria for exit opportunities in the light of unpredictable developments

f.        Timing: Adopting milestone and event markers to determine if the project is successful

g.       Resources: Setting Priorities for resource allocation

4.       What are the priorities and timelines for each tactic?

a.       Timing rules: adapting internal schedules to the pace of the market segment

EX: Release an ecommerce Application during a Holiday Season, or a Tax application during the Tax season, or release applications when companies are about to draw up their budgets and can plan to buy or allocate resources

5.       What resources will be required internally or externally to complete these tactics?

a.       Feasibility:  Does the firm have the skills, resources and commitment?

b.      Expertise:  What expertise or skills are required inside as well as outside the organization to accomplish its goals?

Section Four: Success Requires Confirmation

1.       What timeline and budget will they commit to?

2.       What is the finalized scope of work required to complete the contract?

3.       Who will manage and implement the tactics we are committing to?

4.       How will these initiatives be disseminated to the internal and external stakeholders?

5.       Have we scheduled strategy review sessions?  Is there an accord on what the priorities are?

6.       Who will be our oversight committee?