BABOK Technique Summary: 10.25, Interviews and Agile 7.16 Spikes

By Julie Ramsey
Below is a summary of section 10.25- Interviews from BABOK® version 3 and Agile Technique 7.16 – Spikes from the Agile extension to the BABOK v2.

Technique 10.25 – Interviews
Purpose – Used to elicit information from an individual or group through conversation, questions and documented responses.  Interviews may also build relationships and trust between business analysts and stakeholders.
Description – Interviews depend on direct communication to gather information.  They are commonly one-on-one.  It’s important for the business analyst to solicit responses from all individuals during a group interview.  A Structured Interview is conducted using predetermined questions.  Business analysts may also hold Unstructured Interviews in which questions vary based upon the interviewee’s responses.
The success of an interview is dependent upon the interviewer’s knowledge of the domain, the experience level of the interviewer, the interviewer’s skill in accurate documentation, the interviewee’s understanding of the purpose of the interview and the rapport between interviewer and interviewee.
Interview Goal – The business analyst should clearly communicate the goal of the interview including the purpose as determined by the business need and specific to the interviewee’s role and background.
Potential Interviewees – A project manager, sponsor or stakeholder may suggest interviewees.
Interview Questions – The goals of the interview will determine the questions asked.  The purpose could be to collect data, understand the stakeholder’s perspective, develop or gain support for a solution.  Open-ended questions result in conversation and possibly information unknown to the business analyst.  Closed-ended questions serve the business analyst when seeking confirmation.  An interview guide may be used to organize the questions and is an easy place to record responses.
Interview Logistics – Important logistical considerations include location, time, method of communication, if the interview will be recorded, and if results will be confidential.  Considering the preferences of the interviewee for these items is also important.
Interview Flow – When opening the interview, share why the interviewee’s time is needed, confirm their role, address concerns and explain how the information collected will be shared after the interview.  Maintain focus on the interview goals and use active listening techniques as information is gathered during the interview.  Upon closing the interview, ask if areas were overlooked, provide your contact information and thank the interviewee for their time.
Interview Follow-Up – As soon as possible after the interview, provide the interviewee the information and results so any discrepancies may be corrected.
Usage Considerations – Strengths

  • Builds rapport with stakeholders
  • Allows for a discussion format with probing questions to clarify understanding
  • Provides privacy enabling an interviewee to be more candid than in a group

Usage Considerations – Limitations

  • Time consuming for planning and holding interviews
  • Documentation of the interview may be subject to the interviewer’s interpretation
  • Interviewer needs training to be effective and avoid leading interviewee

Technique 7.16 – Spikes
Purpose – Time-boxed activities used to understand effort for delivering work.  Spikes include research, prototypes, design and investigation.
Description – If work cannot be estimated due to lack of knowledge, a spike may be used to perform research or investigate.  A spike includes clear objectives and outcomes to be discovered within a fixed amount of time.  There is no potentially shippable product since a spike represents exploration and information gathering.  Spikes may be technical such as work to create a prototype for a solution. 
Spike Goal – Every spike has a defined goal so it’s clear when the outcome has been achieved.  The time-box should be less than or equal to an iteration.
Type of Spike – Functional spikes focus on a story and may identify risk, complexity or ways to slice the work.  To assess how feasible a story is or to understand technical design a Technical spike would be used.  There are also Exploratory spikes that consider organizational risk for a given initiative.
Usage Considerations – Strengths

  • A focused goal and time-box result in clarity for the team
  • Allows for value-driven research
  • Promotes shared knowledge across a team as learning happens

Usage Considerations – Limitations

  • Sometimes used for follow-up conversations which is not the true purpose
  • If used frequently could indicate a need for improved product backlog refinement