You know and appreciate them. Those super nice people who are always cordial, very amenable, never demanding or burdensome. In group settings you hardly know they are around. When you interact with them one-on-one it is always a pleasure. The conversation stays very positive and non controversial. In most settings you wish the world had a lot more people just like them.
BUT, there is one situation in which you wish they were different; when they are a user and you need them to articulate what they dislike and want in a product.
Business analysts are trained to analyze the current state and develop a future state based on feedback from users. The larger the user-base that participates in defining the future state the better the end product will be. Users that tend to be critical and demanding are good to have in this situation. They have no problem telling you what they don’t like and lots of ideas when it comes to what they do want. Information flows abundantly from these types of users.
This is not the case with “nice” users. The current system is always just fine and they can’t think of anything they would change. You hear them but you don’t fully believe them. You have heard rumors of unique side processes they use that assist them in getting their work done using the current product.
Then there is the lack of desired feedback that comes when a business analyst proposes a change to the current product. Everything that is proposed to the “nice” users is just fine. They can make it work just as it is. This is most certainly true but as a business analyst your job is to make things more efficient not just workable.
The best way to get good information out of “nice” users when it comes to criticizing the current state of a product is to sit next to them and watch them use it. Record the things they do outside of the product they would never think to tell you about as they do not associate them with the product. This type of evaluation may be time consuming but you can identify a few “nice” users, do it, and not overburden you schedule. Through observation and questions you can identify what workarounds they use and areas of the product they get frustrated with.
The best way to get good information out of “nice” users when asking for feedback on a future state of a product is to offer them two approaches to a feature and ask them to pick which one they like best. Then you ask them why. When you ask “nice” uses what they would change about a future state product they automatically assume their desires are not worth the effort it would take to change things. When you ask them to decide between to different approaches it takes their perceived value of their desires out of the equation. Now they are only deciding between two items. Getting them to tell you why they like one over the other is valuable information.
There is a good chance you have more “nice” users than critical and demanding ones. It is easy to rely on the later for your user input but it may not be the consensus if you were to get good information out of the “nice” users. As a business analyst you need to put in the extra effort to ensure the future state will be most useful and efficient. Don’t worry about offending them; after all they are “nice” – remember?