When shadowing someone, another pitfall to think about is that the day, or the
week, may not be a typical one. For example, there may be some cyclical peak
or trough of work, and if the period of study happens to coincide with this, the
results will not give a representative picture of work more generally. To avoid
this, the BA needs to conduct some preliminary discussions with the workers
and their managers and to select a study period that is reasonably typical.
If an atypical period cannot be avoided – perhaps due to project time
pressures – then other records may have to be consulted so that an adjustment
can be made to the results.
It will have been apparent when reading the description above of ethnographic
studies that this is likely to be a time-consuming exercise. Unfortunately such
time is not often available in the hard-pressed world of work. This is a shame if
signiﬁcant business change is being proposed, the introduction of which will be
immeasurably smoothed if the cultural context is properly understood.
It has to be acknowledged, too, that observation does not, of itself, yield reliable
quantitative data; at best, it produces a view of the situation as seen by
a – hopefully – impartial observer. If more ‘hard’ data is required, to be taken
forward to a business case (perhaps to prove the value of tangible beneﬁts), then
a more quantitative approach, such as activity sampling, may be required.
Finally BAs need to be aware that informal observation can be combined with
interviewing if the discussions take place at the subject’s workplace. While giving
full attention to interviewees and what they have to say, the BA should keep an
eye open for what is going on around them, and look for any aspects of the
working environment that may be relevant to the ﬁnal business solution. It may
have to cater for lots of interruptions, for example.
Technique 16: Questionnaires
These can also be called surveys.
Description of the technique
Questionnaires are among the range of techniques that a BA can use to elicit
requirements or gather other information, or to validate with a wider group of
people the information already gained from smaller groups by using, for example,
interviews or workshops (Techniques 13 and 14).
Questionnaires are probably best thought of as a second-line investigation
technique, designed to supplement, test or amplify information gained ﬁrst
through other means. For example, the BA might already have convened a
workshop with a few representatives of a particular job role, and may now wish
to ﬁnd out if what these people have said is typical of the wider population.
Similarly a BA may want to see whether the views of a few interviewees are
shared more widely.