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Requirement Gathering

Requirement Gathering Techniques

Technique 1: Interviewing a Stakeholder

There is a skill in asking requirement gathering questions the right way. A few tips here  to improve the way you communicate during your requirements interview would include:

  • Ask open ended type of questions.

Try to avoid asking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type questions. Example questions could start like: “Could you please describe your daily tasks you perform to prepare the salaries for month end?” If this question is too high level for them you could try: “How do you know what each person’s salary will be each month?”, “Where do you find that information?”, “How long does it take you to do everyone’s salary pay slips?”, “Why does it take THAT long, what do you have to do?”

  • Drill down to detail or pull up to higher level questions.

In general, some people tend to talk specifics and focuses on exceptions. Other people talk contextually and in general and hardly ever delve into specifics. Use questions such as: “So in general terms, would you say the payroll system is inadequate?” if they tend to focus on a specific small aspect of the system which might not do what they need once a year! This type of question will ‘force’ them to pull out of divergence. The opposite also happens where you might need someone to be more specific. An example question could be: “Is it the report processing specifically that causes the system to fail?” and so on. This will help you ensure that you end up with high quality business requirements.

Depending on the level of stakeholder you are talking to, you will find that different people talk about a problem in different terms. If you need to understand the overall business process from a high level, it is probably not a great idea to interview the person performing a small part of that process.
It is a good idea to prepare more questions and plan your requirement gathering interviews well. Be prepared for each interview!

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Technique 2: Requirement Gathering Workshops

I personally love using workshops to elicit requirements but I would never walk into a requirement gathering workshop without some pre-written requirements or concepts at a minimum! Why? There are several reasons why I would plan my workshop carefully:

  • The more structure you can give a workshop the more focused your session will be. If you don’t have an agenda or any pre-developed materials to run the session with you will find that there might be a lot of ideas and activity in the session but it will most likely be of a poor quality.
  • Know who is coming to your workshop. This is important because everyone who is coming will have their own ideas of what they want to get out of it. If you don’t have a clue who they are, how will you be able to plan for meeting their expectations or ensure their objectives are met? In an ideal world, meet everyone before the requirement gathering workshop for a short chat and understand their views of where they see the project going!

You as the facilitator can control the flow of a workshop with so much less effort if you are prepared and have planned the session than if you walk in blind. You will also appear more professional, in control and your stakeholders will trust you.

Benefits of a running a requirement gathering workshop

Workshops are a great vehicle to strengthen stakeholder ‘buy in’. Involving people in a group set up to discuss a topic of common interest does wonders for stakeholder support in the project.

Disadvantages of a running a requirement gathering workshop

  • It takes more effort to plan, co-ordinate and prepare for.
  • You don’t always manage to get all the right people in the room at the same time. (Idea here: Schedule more workshops and rerun the same session multiple times!)
  • You may need more time for requirements gathering activities but the upside is that your requirement quality is typically higher.

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Technique 3: Research and observation

I put these two techniques together because they walk hand in hand a lot of the time. As a business analyst, it is a great idea to always include some of this technique into any requirement gathering activity.
To job shadow or observe someone means that you need to go sit with them for a few hours or days and observe how they perform their jobs. There is nothing like experiencing the practicality of someone’s day-to-day job.

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