Five Stages of Business Analysis – Requirements Gathering – Strategic Interviews

There are Five Key Stages to Business Analysis and Modeling. The first of these is Requirements Gathering, that is, finding out from the most senior people in the enterprise, exactly what it is that the project is meant to achieve. This stage can be broken down into three distinct phases:

Using existing documents.
Running strategic interviews.
Running modelling workshops.

The most effective means of gathering requirements from senior directors and senior executives is the one-to-one strategic in-depth interview. The purpose of these interviews is to find out from these key people WHAT it is that the business OUGHT to be doing and their opinions regarding the Business Functions (and these are activities, not departments) in the business area in question and the project itself.

These interviews will give you a feel for, provided you listen to what is said (sometimes what is unsaid), what is most important to the interviewee and, as he or she is a key member of the enterprise, it is vital that you know this before proceeding with the project.

It is advisable to prepare for these interviews by reviewing all current strategy documents so that you will be familiar with the strategic history leading up to this time. However, the information you gather from these interviews cannot be gathered from documents alone, do not allow senior executives avoid being interviewed by referring you to back to the documents. All of the knowledge you gather here will also help you to formulate a forward strategy for the business modelling project.

Who To Interview

Effective strategic interviews with appropriate senior executives are the essence to the success of any business modelling project. The term “appropriate” means that the person:

Is knowledgeable about the business area in question.
Is a key player in that area.
Is empowered to define and implement strategy for that area.
Has a vision of the way forward.
Supports the objectives of the business modelling project

The interviewees will be key people and opinion leaders from the business area in question plus members of groups with a valid interest in the business area, such as auditors. Customers both internal and external are another group of people who have a very strong interest in the business area. An enlightened business modelling project manager will see that there are significant benefits to be had by involving customers in the requirements gathering process.

Depending on the size of the organisation and the scale and scope of the study, the number of in-depth interviews will vary. For a small enterprise with less than 30 employees one or two interviews should suffice. As the size of the enterprise and the scope of the project increases then the number of interviews will increase. Whatever the size of the enterprise, interviewing numbers greater than 12 will give diminishing returns – great extra effort expended with little extra to show for it.

The interviewees should represent all areas of the business falling within the scope of the project, with some overlap into related areas (such as customers!) to ensure nothing vital is missed. The objective is to involve the minimum number of people with the greatest knowledge who know WHAT the business OUGHT to be doing now and in the future.

Many projects fail because interviewees for early in-depth interviews are chosen at too low a level in the enterprise, generally people with detailed “hands on” knowledge of existing systems. Such people are (generally) unsuitable for in-depth interviews, because 1) they tend to see the business only in terms of the current system(s) and procedure and 2) they seldom appreciate the underlying Business Functions and lack a vision of what OUGHT be happening.

You need to insist on having senior executives for in-depth interviews. It is essential that you have, their input is vital. Structure the interviews as detailed here and you will ensure that you do not waste their time. Making audio recordings of interviews will also ensure you will not have to re-interview these people and ask them the same questions over again. Some or all of the interviewees must be in a position to make or agree a forward strategy for the project.

What to Ask

Senior executives or key managers are interviewed separately, one at a time. It is essential to prepare for these interviews. In a large enterprise this can take between half and one day for two analysts. A major output from this preparation is a basic set of questions to be asked of the senior executives that should include, as a minimum, the following:

What are the Business Functions that the executive sees as being within the scope of the study?
With regard to those Business Functions that are in the scope of the study and are carried out in the executive ‘s department:
What are the business aims and objectives?
What are the key performance indicators, i.e. what measures should the business area use to measure how well it is performing these Business Functions?
What are the critical success factors for the business, i.e. what must be achieved by the business with regard to these Business Functions for the business to be judged to be successful?
What are the critical success factors for the business modelling project, i.e. what must be achieved by the project with regard to these Business Functions for the project to be judged to be successful?
What does the executive see as being the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) for the business and for the project?
Are there any existing risks and issues within the business area?

What do they see are the risks and issues for the project?

Any other questions that are relevant are then added to the above list. Avoid asking “closed” questions, i.e. those requiring just a “yes” or “no” answer – unless you require a definite “yes” or “no” answer on a particular subject.

Each question should be the beginning of a dialogue between the manager and the lead analyst. The supporting analyst should help keep the lead analyst and manager on track and bring them back to the listed questions if they stray too far. Two analysts are always better than one at these interviews, even in small businesses. It actually increases productivity.

A major aim of the one-to-one strategic interview is to get information from the interviewees that could not be obtained in any other way, for example, their current opinions on certain industry topics and the elements of the enterprise or the modelling project they see as being most important.

Another major aim is to establish that the manager supports the objectives of the business modelling project and the changes that it will bring about in the enterprise and, if not, why not.

The final question should be: “Is there anything that you think I should have asked you and which I have not?”

Structure Not Straight Jacket

Some analysts think that structuring strategy interviews in this way is somehow limiting them. Good analysts will know the questions they need to have answered during an interview. They also know that the only way to ensure that these questions are answered is to ask them during the interview and that the best way to ensure that they are asked is to have them on a list of questions to be asked!

None of the above prevents the analyst from being creative, asking supplementary questions and expanding the interview into an open dialogue where appropriate. Structured interviews ought to be methodical but not mechanistic.

Planning

The interview duration can be calculated in advance based on the amount of time it ought to take for the manager being interviewed to answer all of the questions on the list. The typed up list should be taken to the interview and used as the basis for the agenda.

The interviewee should be prepared by sending them a synopsis of the list of questions explaining the purpose of the interview and indicating the type of questions that will be asked. Avoid sending the list of questions itself as many managers are tempted to treat this as a questionnaire, complete it and return it to you, thinking that that is an end to the matter. This does not give you what you wanted as the questions were only the starting point for a dialogue; it wastes their time and creates a negative situation that could have been avoided.

Method

Typically, these interviews last between two and four hours depending on the size of the enterprise and scope of the project. Two analysts should take part in the interviews, one to lead and facilitate, the second analyst is there to take notes and monitor the lead analyst, ensuring that he/she is asking the correct questions, is listening and hearing the interviewee, is reacting to their responses and not missing any critical points.

The second analyst also takes notes but these ought not be the primary means of capturing the findings of the interview. All in-depth interviews should ideally be captured by means of an audio recording. Manuscripts can be produced from the recording on which all the analysts in the project team can work. The interviewee should be assured that the tape will only be played to members of the project team for the purposes of making a typed transcript – then erased.

Starting a Home Catering Business – Important Things to Help You Start Your Business

Starting a home catering business may not be too difficult, as this business venture is more of your being adept in capturing the taste of many and learning the art of food preparation. But of course, like any other business ventures where you put your hard earned money on it in the hope of making it grow, it is indeed important and just wise to be prepared right from the very start.

You just can’t dive into a business venture without any preparations. Even if you are skilled and knowledgeable in cooking and food preparation, you also have to learn the basics of running a business. Here are a few things that you have to consider in starting a home catering business.

1. Your business plan. For sure, you already have some main ideas running in your mind when you are thinking of starting a home catering business, but you have to put then into writing in the form of a business plan. A business plan contains your business name, your short and long tern goals as well as the activities that you will need to carry out to start your business running. It will also include the investment you need, the manpower, as well as your marketing initiatives. This will serve as your guide and reference to make your business succeed.

2. Look for ways to fund your business. If you have savings enough to fund the entire investment cost, then you might not have problems with this one, but if you are looking additional sources of funds, you can find small business loans that can help you finance your business. Whatever you plan for your business, it is important to think about the profitability and feasibility of your plans.

3. Check how much initial cost you need in setting up a business. Costs in starting a home catering business will include the cost for the equipment, salaries for your first few employees or chef, cost of your industrialized kitchen to start with.

4. Check out for certain rules and regulations in your local health department that applies to your business. You may need to secure permits and check out on the laws that govern your business. This will help save you from any troubles later on. You can even hire an attorney to take care of the legal matters of your business as well.

5. Create a marketing strategy for your business. Aside from learning the skills of capturing the taste of your customers without having to spend lavishly on your ingredients, it is also important that you think about how you can reach out to your target market. Also, you have to think of a way to maintain good business relations with them. Keep in mind that one good way to promote and market a catering business is through the word of mouth, and thus you have to make sure you made a good impression in every client that you have served.

In starting a home catering business, you have to be ready and prepared for the risks. All business ventures have risks and you have to make sure that you start your business well-prepared so you will also increase your chances of making a profitable business.

Home Catering Business – What You Need To Know To Start One

If you are looking at a home catering business as a good opportunity to start making money at home, it is important that you learn a few tips and get a good guide in putting up one. In any business venture that you would want to start, it is indeed wise to know everything about it before even starting to put in your investments.

Indeed, a home catering business is a profitable business that you can put up and when it comes to opportunities in making money, this business can be your ticket towards making good money at home. If you are particularly interested in starting a home catering business, here are a few tips that you might find useful.

- You have to learn how to capture the taste of your clients and you have to be skilled and knowledgeable in food preparation as well. These probably are the two main things that you need to focus on before even starting your catering business. It might not be easy to please hundreds of people in one setting but then again, you have to target to get the taste of most of your clients and guests. This way, you can always have good opportunities to have repeat customers, build a name for your business and make more profit.

- Consider the initial cost of putting up a business. This is another consideration that you have to prepare for as well. If you are thinking about how much would it cost you to set up a home catering business, the main things that you have to invest in include the cost of your equipment, cost of registering your business and in making sure that your business is in compliance with health and safety laws.

- Finding where you can secure for a business loan. If your savings cannot pay all your initial costs, you can also find ways to secure a business loan. Start with just a small loan. It is not also wise to get all your investment cost from business loans. Of course, you have to choose a business loan as well that has terms that fit your business and easy for you to repay.

- Preparing your business plan. Before even trying to think about the costs and how you will market your business, you need to draft and create your business plan. Your business plan will outline the goals and objectives of your business as well as the activities and the plan on how you will carry out your business especially in the first few years of operation. Having a business plan will guide you on how you can carry out your business well and how you can manage when difficulties arise in your business operations.

Indeed, it is important to be adept on the business before even thinking of investing on it. You also have to learn everything you can even before spending your money on it. This way, you will learn if you can indeed manage a home catering business and bring it to a success.