Information gathering may be performed in two distinct stages. The first stage is required to gather information about the basic stakeholder requirements, the audience and the tasks that need to be documented. You then use this information to develop the information plan.
Information gathering requires a range of skills, including the following:
- ability to identify potential information sources
- ability to interview people at all levels of an organisation and obtain the required information in a usable form and timely manner
- ability to ask the appropriate questions and phrase those questions so that the answer is clear, and satisfies your information requirements
- ability to identify and analyse background reference material and to research a subject
- active listening skills
- good note-taking skills or transcription skills if you record an interview
- the ability to understand and assimilate highly technical and unfamiliar information quickly and effectively.
The second information gathering stage then takes place when the project is underway. Detailed information is gathered about the tasks or other aspects of the product that are being documented. Many of the skills listed above are used again, but additional skills are required to deal with the large volume or possible complexity of the information. These additional skills include:
- being aware of techniques, such as Information Mapping ®, mind mapping and structure mapping to analyse and organise the information you gather
- knowing how to run workshops, using techniques such as brain storming and facilitation to extract information from subject matter experts and other stakeholders
- using process mapping to prepare an overview of a business or process
- using the drafting process to create review drafts that can be used as the basis for gathering or correcting information that is required in your document.
Although the additional skills may be more appropriate to dealing with bulk information gathered later in the project, you may find some or all of them useful at any stage of the project.