Interviewing Management

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The second part of the interview process involves interviewing management personnel. This round of interviews focuses on these issues:

  1. The types of information managers currently receive

  2. The types of additional information they need to receive

  3. The types of information they foresee themselves needing

  4. Their perception of the organization's overall information requirements


Throughout the remainder of the book, I use the term management to refer to the person or persons controlling or directing the organization.

Reviewing Current Information Requirements

Your objectives during the first part of this interview are to identify the information that management routinely receives and to determine whether it receives reports that are not represented in your group of report samples.

As you begin the interview, ask each participant about the work he performs and the responsibilities associated with his position. A manager typically has a number of issues on his mind, so these questions will help him focus his attention on the matters at hand. His answers will give you some idea of how he might use the information on the reports he receives and will provide you with a perspective on his need for that information.

Next, ask each participant if he uses any of the reports in your collection of report samples. Proceed with the next step if he says he doesn't use any of the reports; otherwise, examine each report and ask him to help you identify other subjects that you might have previously overlooked. Use the subject-identification technique as necessary to aid you in this process. If the manager identifies a new subject, add it to your list of subjects and use the characteristic-identification technique to determine the subject's characteristics. Then add the new characteristics to your list of characteristics. Repeat this entire procedure for each sample report.

Continue the discussion by asking each participant whether he receives reports that are not represented in your report samples. If he answers yes, obtain a sample of each new report and review it with the participant. Use the subject-identification technique and the characteristic-identification technique to identify the subjects (and their associated characteristics) represented within the report and then add the subjects and characteristics to their respective lists. Finally, attach a description to the report and add it to your collection of report samples. Repeat this procedure until you've accounted for every new report.

Reviewing Additional Information Requirements

The next subject of discussion concerns management's need for additional information. Your objective is to determine whether it requires supplemental information that is currently missing from the reports it receives. If you conclude that this is the case, you must identify that additional information. You'll then define new data structures (as appropriate) to support this information later in the design process. However, you can move on to the next part of the interview if management doesn't require additional information.

You use the same techniques for this discussion as those you used for this segment of the user interviews. Here are the steps you'll follow:

  1. Review the report samples with the participants once again and ask them if there is additional information they would like to include in any of the reports.

  2. Have the participants note the additional informationincluding the reasons that they believe it's necessaryon the appropriate reports. Remember that it doesn't matter how the participants make the notations so long as they are clear, noticeable, and are attached to the appropriate report.

  3. Identify new subjects or characteristics within the information and add them to the appropriate list.

  4. Review the reports and discuss any concerns you have about them with the participants. Once your concerns are resolved, this process is complete.

Reviewing Future Information Requirements

Future information requirements are the next subject of discussion. Your objective here is to determine what information management foresees itself needing in the future. Once you've identified these requirements, you can ensure that there are data structures in place to support this information as the need for it arises.

As you begin the discussion, have the participants consider how the organization is currently evolving. Then ask them how this evolution will affect the information they require to make sound decisions and how it will influence the way they guide or direct the organization. Remember that their answers are going to be based on speculation, as was the case with the similar questions you asked users; there's no way for management to predict its future needs accurately until the organization actually begins to evolve. (It's always a good idea, however, to plan for the future as much as possible.) Use the subject-identification technique and characteristic-identification technique to identify new subjects and characteristics within the participants' responses and then add the new items (if any) to the appropriate lists.

Next, make sketches of any new reports the participants might have in mind. Identify new subjects and characteristics within each report and add them to the appropriate lists. Then assemble these new reports in a clearly marked folder and add it to your collection of samples.

You're ready to move on to the last subject when you've accounted for as many of management's future information requirements as possible.

Reviewing Overall Information Requirements

The last topic of discussion concerns the organization's overall information requirements. In management's opinion, what generic class of information does the organization need? Your objective here is to discover whether there is data that the organization needs to maintain that has not been previously discussed in either the user interviews or the management interviews. If you determine that there is such data, you must account for it in the database structure.

Take all of the reports that you've gathered throughout the analysis and interview processes and review them with the participants once more. Then ask the participants to consider the information the reports provide and how they might use that information. (Note that they'll have to make assumptions about how they might use the information from the new reports.) Next, ask participants to determine whether there is information that would be useful or valuable to the organization, but that is not currently being received by anyone within the organization. If they determine that there is indeed some new information that the organization could use, go through the normal process of identifying that information and the subjects and characteristics represented within it. Sketch samples of new reports for the information, as appropriate, and add the samples to your existing collection of new reports.

For example, assume that one of the participants has identified a need for demographic information; she believes that it would help the organization identify a more specific target market for its product. None of the existing reports furnishes this information, so you identify exactly what she needs by working with her to create a sketch of a report that will present this information. (She might actually sketch more than one report, but this is neither a problem nor a cause for your concern.) You then use the appropriate techniques to identify and note the subjects and characteristics represented within the report and add it to your existing collection of new reports. Later in the design process, you'll define the data structures necessary to support the new information.

Repeat this procedure until the participants can no longer identify any further information that the organization might find useful or valuable. After you're reasonably confident that you've accounted for all of the organization's information requirements, suspend the interview process and begin the process of compiling the preliminary field list.

It's important for you to understand that you may have to revisit this process, even though you and the participants may believe that you've accounted for all the information the organization could possibly use. You'll commonly identify new information as the database-design process unfolds.


Part II: The Design Process