Q:  

Would you interview top executives (CEO, COO, CFO), vice presidents and directors of functional areas separately or as a group for the collection of business requirements via interviews?

A:  

Sid Adelman's Answer: Interview them separately. These are important people - at least they think they are - and their time is limited. If you did interview them together, one would be waiting for the next to finish and you would be wasting their time. Besides, trying to find a time when they could all be there would be very difficult.

Chuck Kelley's Answer: I prefer to do people individually. Some people close up when the upper management is in the room. This is even true with top executives. A good CEO may relinquish some thoughts to the others in the room not trying to push their own beliefs. Others will take total control of the conversation.

Clay Rehm's Answer: If you are able to, interview them all individually first and then together as a group and compare and contrast their answers from the individual sessions to the group session. You may notice that some of the individuals may change their answers when they are in the company of their peers.

It is important to dress, speak and act professionally. I assume you are an IT person, and most people within IT seem to forget the simple things when communicating with their customers. The biggest mistake is the lack of respect. These executives have spent many years working hard to where they are at and expect a level of respect and sophistication during any kind of communication.

Make sure you follow up with the meeting minutes immediately after the interviews.

Les Barbusinski's Answer: As a general rule, it's always a good idea to interview senior management (especially C-level executives) separately. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Availability: Executives are busy people. Some travel extensively. Getting a group together in the same room at the same time can be problematic due to scheduling conflicts.
  • Political Correctness: In a group, people tend to be circumspect in what they say, and candor usually suffers. In a group situation - especially with executives - you will hear what you were meant to hear rather than the true requirements. Can you say "group think?"
  • Intimidation: Often, in a group situation, one person will exert dominance while the rest merely nod their heads. You may as well have just interviewed the assertive person rather than the group. Worse, if there are two dominant personalities in the room, the whole session will degenerate into a head-butting session.

Eliciting business requirements and/or expectations from managers or executives is best done in a one-on-one milieu. Your project will proceed faster (i.e. no scheduling conflicts), your interviewees will be more candid and forthcoming, and you are more likely to get the true requirements. One last tip ... avoid telling executive A what executive B said in their interview. You're far more likely to get at the truth if each interviewee delivers their opinion in an "uncontaminated" state. Hope this helps.

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