Questionnaires

Questionnaires

Questionnaires - There is no question that you can gather better, and perhaps more accurate, requirements when you have personal contact.

However, personal contact is not practical in all cases. Usually this is because there are too many people to personally contact or the time effort and cost of personal contact is too high.

For example, you may want to gather feedback from current participants in a business process, but there may be hundreds (or thousands) of individuals.

It would not be practical or even possible to talk to each of them individually. In fact, it would not be effective even if you could, since after talking to a few people, you will start to hear the same experiences over and over again.

Another example of having too many contributors is a government agency that is trying to gather feedback from the public, or a vendor that is trying to gather feedback from a mass market of customers.

The other area where personal interaction is not effective is if you are talking to many people who have similar roles and experiences.

For example, let's say you want to gather requirements from a group of 20 users in the same basic role. You will find that the first interview contains a lot of good information.

The second interview is also good and provides a new perspective on the role, although some of the feedback is repetitive.

The third interview provides a little more insight, but the majority of the feedback is an overlap of what you heard before.

The fourth interview provides no new value.

You could continue to interview all 20 people, but you see that they become less and less effective.

An alternative to personal feedback is to use a questionnaire or survey

A questionnaire can consist of questions and space for written answers from the participant, or it can ask questions that require a numerical response. Many questionnaires ask for a combination of ratings feedback and written feedback. There are a number of advantages to a well-worded questionnaire.

• They are a relatively inexpensive way to gain feedback from many contributors. For instance, in our example above, a vendor may try to gather feedback from thousands, or millions, of customers. A questionnaire would be an effective way to allow this mass of people to contribute their ideas.

• They can be a great way to gain information on relative importance or the prioritization of requirements. In many cases, there are not right or wrong answers for requirements.

However, there are preferences and some preferences are more widespread than others. Rather than having a small group decide on the preferred requirements, a large group can be surveyed for their opinions.

If you received 1,000 questionnaires back, you might find that 70% prefer one feature over another. This would mean that 300 people might have a certain preference, but you decide to address the other preference instead since it was preferred by the majority.

• The ratings feedback can be interpreted mathematically for precision and ease. One great advantage of surveys is that you can gather feedback from a tremendous number of people, and yet synthesize the results using math.

You can imagine the problems consolidating interview information from 100 people. However, survey results from 100 people can be consolidated using a simple spreadsheet.

• You can get "shades of gray" from the rating feedback. A questionnaire allows you to receive answers based on a continuum or a range of possible results.

For instance, instead of asking an interview question about how an individual likes a current process, you can ask a questionnaire question that allows the person to rate their satisfaction with a current process on a scale of one through ten. (You could also ask the question in an interview, but if you do, you are basically using a verbal questionnaire approach.)

Again, the feedback can be easily captured and consolidated mathematically. Of course, there are also a number of weaknesses with a questionnaire approach.

These include:

• Since you are not present, you do not have an opportunity to see the non-verbal reactions from the person completing the questionnaire.

• You cannot ask follow-up and probing questions. You can hope that people explain their answers (if you have given them that option). However, you have no opportunity to use interviewing techniques to ensure you understand what people are trying to say.

• Unless you really push the matter, you will not typically end up with a high percentage of questionnaires returned. In fact, you should be happy to receive 50% back, and return rates of 25% and lower are not uncommon.

If you get too few questionnaires returned, you may not have the confidence you need to make requirements decisions since you cannot be sure that the results you have are representative of the entire group.

• Many, perhaps most, surveys are not very good, and therefore the information returned is suspect. Problems can include:

o Making it hard for people to fill in answers, perhaps by not leaving enough space

o Making the rating scale confusing or inconsistent

o Giving multiple choice questions where all of the choices are not represented in the answer

o Asking biased questions that lead the responses in a certain direction

o Asking for one rating when a statement contains two or more implicit questions (For instance, are you happy with the timeliness and format of the report?)

There is usually a question about whether participants should identify themselves or not. Providing identification may make it easier to ask follow-up questions to gain better clarity on the responses. However, it may also inhibit feedback and may result in some people not responding at all.

Regression Testing


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