Human-Computer Interaction 3e Dix, Finlay, Abowd, Beale

online!    Making the most of stakeholder interviews

see Section 5.4 User Focus, page 197 and Section 13.3 Capturing Requirements, page 458

Here are some tips for stakeholder interviews focused on requirements gathering during user centred design. For participatory or co-design, many of the same things hold, but there would be additional activities.

Kinds of knowing

First remember:

People also find it easier to articulate ‘what’ compared with ‘why’ knowledge:

Be concrete

Most of us think best when we have concrete examples or situations to draw on, even if we are using these to describe more abstract concepts.

Estrangement

As noted the stakeholder’s tacit knowledge may be the most important. By seeking out or deliberately creating odd or unusual situations, we may be able to break out of this blindness to the normal.

Of course some of these, notably fantasy scenarios, may work better in some organisations than others!

Analyse

You need to make sense of all that interview data!

If possible you may wish to present these back to those involved, even if people are unaware of certain things they do or think, once presented to them, the flood gates open!   If your stakeholders are hard to interview, maybe because they are senior, or far away, or because you only have limited access, then if possible do some level of analysis mid-way so that you can adjust future interviews based on past ones.

Prioritise

Neither you nor your interviewees have unlimited time; you need to have a clear idea of the most important things to learn – whilst of course keeping an open ear for things that are unexpected!

If possible plan time for a second round of some or all the interviewees after you have had a chance to analyse the first round. This is especially important as you may not know what is important until this stage!

Privacy, respect and honesty

You may not have total freedom in who you see, what you ask or how it is reported, but in so far as is possible (and maybe refuse unless it is) respect the privacy and personhood of those with whom you interact.

This is partly about good professional practice, but also efficacy – if interviewees know that what they say will only be reported anonymously they are more likely to tell you about the unofficial as well as the official practices! If you need to argue for good practice, the latter argument may hold more sway than the former!

In your reporting, do try to make sure that any accounts you give of individuals are ones they would be happy to hear. There may be humorous or strange stories, but make sure you laugh with not at your subjects. Even if no one else recognises them, they may well recognise themselves.

Of course do ensure that you are totally honest before you start in explaining what will and will not be related to management, colleagues, external publication, etc. Depending on the circumstances, you may allow interviewees to redact parts of an interview transcript, and/or to review and approve parts of a report pertaining to them.

 

Alan Dix © 2015, 2020