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How to ask Questions to Stakeholders

Data is critical for every company and industry. Stakeholders expect good insights from the amount of data that it has, so that they can harness the full potential of the data for the benefit of the company.

Oftentimes it happens that the stakeholders - even from well-established businesses are under pressure, and at times may not know what to do with the large amount of data that they have and how they can use it. In situations like this the main thing for a data analyst or a business analyst is to ask questions. Asking the right question could lead to great and relevant ideas that businesses are seeking.

For data analytics, asking the right question can solve most of the problem and lead to a specific direction in your workflow. As a result, you will understand what the stakeholder is asking, and how you can respond to this with the data at hand. If the question asked is vague and not effective, your data will not tell much of a story and the insights taken from the data won’t be valuable at all.

Things to avoid while asking questions:

We must always remember that we must keep our questions open-ended so that the client can answer those questions. Try to start the questions with the questions with who, what, where, when, how and why. After asking almost 4 questions, we can gain a complete picture of the problem that the client or the stakeholder is looking to solve.

It is important to note, however, that we should avoid the following types of questions:

1. Leading Questions:

These are the types of questions that generally end with a yes or no answer. They generally don't expand upon what exactly the problem is.

For example : “The product has a low market space, doesn't it?”

These types of questions already give the person a suggestion for the answer. Rather, our question should have been “What opinions do you have about the product?” This question is open-ended, and leads to a discussion. Doing so provides us with useful and thorough information from the client.

2. Closed-Ended Questions:

These are the questions which have a positive or negative reply, or yes or no replies. Often there is a confusion between the leading questions and closed-ended questions. We have to keep in mind that in leading questions we tend to give answers inside the question.

For example: Isn’t the office space so beautiful? It will provide us with a yes answer as the question is directing the user to reply yes.

But it is not the case for closed-ended answers.

For the question - “Are you satisfied with the hackathon?”

It will give you an answer which will be either affirmative or negative i.e. either a yes or a no, which provides us with little to no information at all.

Rather, the question could have been; “What are the things you were looking forward to in the hackathon?”

3. Vague Questions:

These questions have no context at all. These questions give no context to the client on what type of answer they need to give, and will not direct the conversation productively.

For example: “How was the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure?”

Rather than this, the question should have been, “How was Oracle Cloud Infrastructure compared to other cloud platforms you used? Was it slower than the other? What is your opinion about the user interface for that platform?”

Asking SMART Questions

To explain the SMART Questions let’s analyse a problem statement.

For example : What are the things that people look for while buying a keyboard and mouse?

  • Specific: Does the question focus on a particular feature that the product must have?

  • Measurable: Does the question include a means of rating and comparison?

  • Action-oriented: Does the question influence creation of different or new features?

  • Relevant: Does the question identify which features make or break a potential purchase?

  • Time-bound: Does the question validate data on the most popular features from the last three years?

Keeping in mind that the questions must be open-ended, we can formulate questions as follows. Please also note that questions can vary from person to person.

  • On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the most) how important is it that your keyboard is wireless?

  • What are the top 5 features that you want your keyboard to have?

  • What features, if included in your keyboard, would make you buy the product?

  • What price do you think is reasonable for a wireless keyboard?

  • Has the wireless keyboard and mouse become more or less popular in the past years?

These are the type of questions that an analyst can ask while in conversation with stakeholders, or for any other projects that they have been assigned to.

"Can you think of some SMART questions that can make or break the purchase of your product?"

Comment below !!

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