Surviving That First Meeting

In a recent on-line forum, someone asked for guidance on the “basic questions” a Data Modeler should ask of their business customers in the initial meetings. It’s a good question to ask, and it’s encouraging that this person should think about getting this right.
Rather than provide a list of questions — which, I think, depend very much on the circumstances of the project, the organization, the meeting invitees and your own standing in the group — I thought it better to offer some advice about preparation.
Few things are relegated to the dustbin of wasted time than a meeting with an unprepared analyst — especially the “outside consultant” who arrives expecting to be given a history of your business. When you arrive at that meeting, the chances are that there will be 4-5 people who have been with the company for years and been with each other for years, and 1 or 2 outsiders who just got off the boat. If the meeting dissolves into a history of the business, 3 people will be interested and 3-4 will be bored. That’s a waste of time.
So — advice to the consultant:

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