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Ralph Kimball gives secrets on gathering data requirements

Ralph Kimball, a highly-respected data warehouse guru has published great advice for ascertaining end-user requirements: 

  •   Learn a bit about the business beforehand by reviewing the Web site or annual report to understand company-specific vocabulary and hot-button issues.

  •  Meet with interviewees on their own turf. Go to their offices or conference rooms, rather than IT meeting spaces.

  •  Prior to the interview, send out an announcement describing the high-level discussion topics and confirming the interview time and place. Don't attach a detailed questionnaire to this meeting notice. You can't achieve a conversational flow if you're reviewing questionnaire results-presuming anyone bothers to complete the survey.

  •  Interview questions prepared in advance are fallback devices, used only if uncomfortable lulls occur in conversations or to ensure key points are covered before ending sessions.

  •  Most good conversations tend to wander, so remember your session goals and steer conversations back on track if you stray too far from core issues. Stay at a relatively high level in the interview's early stages. Don't follow an early comment to a very low level of detail, only to run out of time and discover that you haven't discussed three other major areas of responsibility with important requirements for the DW/BI effort.  

Kimball also has a great quick tips section:

Dos and Don'ts for Gathering Requirements

  • Do talk with a vertical span of businesspeople, including executives, directors/managers and analysts.
  • Don't rely on a single user to represent the business, even if it's less intimidating and easier to schedule.
  • Do allow plenty of time to coordinate calendars for scheduling, especially with traveling business management.
  • Don't get angry if someone has to reschedule at the last second.
  • Do get help from skilled assistants to manage scheduling.
  • Don't offload interview coordination to someone unfamiliar with the project or organization.
  • Do arrive for the interview on time.
  • Don't bring food to the interview, leave your cell phone on or spill a large latte over the interviewee's conference table and sample reports.
  • Do plan on a two-person requirements team in each interview, if possible.
  • Don't overwhelm a lone interviewee with six people sitting across from him, Inquisition-style.
  • Do designate one person as the lead interviewer with primary responsibility for steering the session.
  • Don't turn the interview into a free-for-all, bouncing randomly from one interviewer to the next.
  • Do flesh out your scribbled interview notes immediately, or you'll lose much of the interesting detail by the next day.
  • Don't schedule more than four interviews per day.
  • Do document what you learned during the requirements gathering and feedback results to close the loop with participants.
  • Don't lose sight of the scope of your DW/BI requirements process.


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