I definitely favor successive approximation over the waterfall method; by prototyping early and often, you not only get a better sense of what will actually be most effective early in the process, when you’re best able to make changes, but sometimes end up refining the goals for the project itself.
That being said, I think analysis is super useful, and I spend a fair amount of time on it early in most projects. The analysis questions I ask vary. However, typically my high level goals are to:
- Learn what success looks like for this particular project.
- Dig into the key differences between that ideal situation and the current state of things.
- Learn about the target audience, their motivations, and their work environment.
- Explore existing tools and resources, and identify the gaps between what these resources already provide and what is needed for success.
- Begin to dig into behavior: what should people be doing, why aren’t they doing it, and what are they doing instead?
Below are some of the generic the analysis questions that I have in front of me when interviewing key stakeholders towards the beginning of a project. When I’m actually interviewing, I often jump around, adding and modifying questions as needed.
- What is their background?
- Where do they work?
- What is their work environment like?
- What are the biggest challenges on the job?
- What motivates them?
- What do they worry about?
- What do they like most about their jobs?
- What do they like least about their jobs?
- In the future, a year or two years after we launch this course, how will you know it’s been a success?
- What do you want people to do differently after taking this course?
- Why aren’t they already doing this?
- What are the most common knowledge-related barriers?
- What are some of the non-knowledge related barriers?
- What are the changes someone could make to have the most impact?
Skills and Behaviors
- What would be the best sorts of practices (real life or otherwise) to prepare learners for what you want them to do differently?
- Are there people already doing this well? If so, how did they teach themselves?
- What are the best practices?
- What are the common misconceptions?
- What are the most common mistakes?
- What are the most tempting mistakes?
- What is most challenging?
- What is the target audience already doing very well?
- What resources already exist to help the target audience?
- How frequently are these resources used?
- Could these resources be made more useful? How?
- What information does the target audience really need to memorize, and what information do they just need to know how to find?
The above questions are aimed at project stakeholders. I also try to interview the target audience early on in a project, either through focus groups or one-on-one interviews; those questions are similar, but typically focus on skills, behaviors, and motivations.
What do YOU think is most important to ask at the beginning of a project?