Thursday, July 16, 2009

Getting Information Gathering Right

Have you noticed that most clients hate the information gathering stage? You may want to do detailed research and have answers to all your queries before you propose a solution, but several clients wonder "Why are they over doing it?" Have you experienced this? What could be the reasons for this?
  1. The information we ask is common sense to them and therefore, they wonder why you haven't figured it out yourself.
  2. They wonder how certain information is going to help you design the training program and therefore, they feel that you are asking way too many irrelevant questions.
  3. They have sent you all the documents but they feel you have not read them and that you continue to ask the same questions.
  4. My previous vendor did not bother me with a third degree. Why are these people wasting my time?
Why is information gathering important?
  • Anyone can design a training program based on documents shared by the client, but getting the right information will help you design a training program that will make a difference. You are expected to deliver an effective training program. How are you going to do so without understanding the organization and its employees?
  • This stage also plays a crucial role in building credibility, trust, and rapport with the client. This is the instance where your team gets to interact and make an impression with the client.
  • It helps clearly understand the reality. All misconception, ambiguity is discarded right at the beginning.
On some accounts the client are right. What can you do to ensure that information gathering stage is effective.
  1. Ensure that you keep it short. If this stage takes too long to close, it is bound to test the client's patience. They want to see solutions and results. The faster you propose a solution the better. Avoid long breaks between meetings. Ensure that you get the information you need over a short span of time. Also, ensure that you make good use of the time allotted to you by the client.
  2. Fix an agenda for the meeting. Ensure that the client knows in advance what the goal of the meeting is. This will give them time to prepare for the meeting. They will be able to answer your queries immediately.
  3. Ask the right questions. Do not have a standard list of questions and ask all your clients the same questions. Each project is different. You need to modify your questions as per the need. Remove the irrelevant questions and stick to the ones that will provide you valuable information to move ahead.
  4. Ensure that you read all the documents shared by the client. It is a bad idea to think that you can get the information directly from the client and therefore, avoid reading the documents. Clients will be offended if they realize that you have not read the information they shared.
  5. Do not ask the same questions over and over again. Get your question right and record the answer.
  6. Do not introduce new team members halfway through the information gathering stage. If you do, ensure that they are briefed well. Else, they are going to ask the same questions and it may be difficult for them to catch up.
  7. Explain the rationale for the questions. This will help clients understand why you need this information. It will help them see that you are not over doing it but just doing your job right.


Geeta Bose said...

Very apt article Archie. We have seen from our experience that information gathered during the information gathering phase has played a critical part in designing effective training. I would like to add a couple of points to your list.
a. Sign an NDA with your client and ask them to share any research or brainstorming that they have already done for the upcoming project.
b. Do not undermine the importance of this phase by asking clients to provide details because its a part of the process.
c. Adopt difference approaches to gather information from your clients. You can set up a telecon, send worksheets or documents to fill out, or meet in person to gather information.
d. Ensure that you gather information from the stakeholders (who is paying you for the training), trainers (who will plan/implement/deliver the training from the clients side), and client's technical team (if you are designing an online training).

Archana Narayan said...

Thanks Geeta for adding to my list! Valuable points to make my list complete :)