Tech Selection Tips #6: Ask Questions That Really Matter

  • 6-Jun-2017

In our last set of tips, we focused on narrative user stories as the prime mechanism for conveying requirements. Unfortunately, user stories are not always ideal for communicating all needs, particularly those related to technical topics like architecture and integration, or that relate to more operational concerns, like implementation and migration.  So you need to supplement stories with questions — very specific sorts of questions.

Here again, you may become tempted to turn to the dreaded spreadsheet to list those requirements, but we have a better idea. You want to enumerate these issues not as checklists, but as a series of questions to bidders that will yield more useful and informative information exchange.

Tech Selection Tips #6

At Real Story Group, we call this RFP segment “Advanced Questions & Answers,” and it fulfills a very important function in sharing critical requirements in a way that encourages differentiation among bidders. In particular you advance the conversation by converting all your “Does your…” checklist items into “How does your…” questions.

Types of Questions to Ask

Typically, the types of questions you need to address in advanced Q&A fall into four categories:

  1. Integration services: Where you will need to connect to other enterprise or partner systems
  2. Functional services: Capabilities that don’t fit neatly into one of your user stories
  3. System services: To deal with critical storage, security, network, and related capabilities—less germane for cloud-based solutions, but still always an issue
  4. Implementation services: Not technology related, but likely critical to your success

To be sure, you could include any of those aspects in user stories; you could even include an implementation or migration scenario in your requirements. When assisting clients at Real Story Group, we typically include at least one developer user story. By their nature, though, these systems and integration topics sometimes fit more readily into a straightforward, Q&A format.

Q&A Tips

  • Ask questions rather than delimit "checklist" requirements.
  • Ask “how” questions instead of “what,” to better illuminate the inner workings of the toolset.
  • Use these questions to get to deeper answers around topics that may not be uncovered fully in a demo, such as systems administration and integration, as well as implementation and support methodologies.
  • For larger enterprises, make sure that you address the unique challenges of scalability early and often.
  • Perfect is the enemy of good; you’ll have a chance to iterate on these questions throughout the process.

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