- Stakeholder interviews provide first-hand knowledge of systems and processes that inform a technology audit and gap analysis
- Structured stakeholder interview guides prevent scope creep during these audits
- Interview guides are a valuable resource for supporting conclusions and decisionmaking
In the movies, journalists are often depicted talking to many interesting people, taking notes, piecing together clues and ideas, and coming up with solutions. The forethought and planning that goes into what questions to ask, however, is typically not part of the story – despite how critical it is to the overall process.
Stakeholder interview guides are a means for a member of the organization’s audit team (typically residing in an operations role) to capture information from individuals within the organization about process, technology and data. The audit team creates stakeholder interview guides before conducting a technology audit. The interview guide is the primary tool for helping an audit team maintain the scope and direction of the audit process. The questions and stakeholders are determined in part by the scope of the audit itself.
The interview guide outlines the questions that the interviewer will ask stakeholders. Guide formats are typically laid out in sections, including introductions, roles and priorities, general and targeted capabilities and/or processes, desired or future state, functional technology, skills, and a conclusion. Although a guide may be accompanied by a survey, it is not a survey – it is more comprehensive and requires participant dialogue to get to the heart of relevant issues. Interviewees should have knowledge of – or a vested interest in – business processes and goals supported by the particular capabilities and technologies that are the focus of the audit. The information captured within the guide serves purposes beyond the audit, as input into process and data mapping, gap analyses and proposed solutions.
Structured stakeholder interview guides help ensure formalized, documented interviews, and provide the following important benefits:
- Focused auditing. Most technology audits are commissioned and scoped by a steering committee or similar authoritative entity. Obtaining these entities’ review and approval of the interview guide(s) helps ensure that the information to be solicited during the interviews is what the steering committee wants to know. Unscripted interviews during an audit run the risk of going out of scope, wasting time and delivering less valuable intelligence.
- Scalability. Obtaining viewpoints from multiple stakeholders builds a better, more balanced picture of the technology stack and how well it is functioning. Interview guides give the audit team a scalable, consistent and comparable way to get these viewpoints. Multiple interviewers can use the same guide, speak with more stakeholders and accelerate the speed of the audit. Asking the same questions (or the same type) prescriptively allows the audit team to compare and evaluate each interviewee’s responses more easily. This apples-to-apples comparison often yields a clearer understanding of the technology stack and the organizational processes it supports.
- Prioritization. Interview guides provide a formalized way for the interviewer to ensure that all important questions are asked during the interview. Much like a checklist, guides should include questions that must be asked and that will garner the most information given the audit scope and stakeholder role or expertise. Any additional time in an interview can be used for questions that have been assigned lower priority or open-ended questions (e.g. “Is there anything you wanted to discuss that we didn’t already ask about?”)
- Lessons learned. Keeping a repository of past interview guides is a simple way to access previous interviews and the process as a whole to get a better understanding of what worked and what didn’t. For example, did you include a question that added little or no value across the majority of interviews? If so, consider removing it. Did the interview guide contain several unanswered questions at the end? Check to see if these questions were skipped on purpose (e.g. they weren’t appropriate for the particular interviewee) or if the interviewer ran out of time. The ability to learn from past mistakes ensures improvements can be made for future guides.
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