Requirement Gathering Techniques – The essentials for you to know as a Business Analyst
Being good at Requirement Gathering Techniques is one of our biggest and most important tasks to try and get the most out of when engaging with stakeholders. You will do a mix of the techniques described here and the mix will be different for every project. Think about what suits the project best and have a read of the top tips associated with each of the requirement gathering techniques.
Requirement Gathering Techniques – Requirement Interviews
This requirement gathering technique is probably the most common way of eliciting requirements from your stakeholders out of all the requirement gathering techniques out there. When you perform a requirements interview keep these points in mind:
Once you introduced yourself to the interviewee you should first provide them with background on the project, the project scope and timeframes. It is also often useful to tell them who suggested you talk to them and why you would like to talk to them. If you know they may feel threatened by the project’s objective, find something positive to say which can put them at ease. Building rapport with your stakeholders here will stand you in good stead during the rest of the project.
Format of the Requirement Gathering Interview
Now that you have set the scene, you should also high-light the scope of your requirement gathering questions. Tell them for example that you have some questions about the overall purpose of their department, then you would like to talk about their most important business processes and finally if they could discuss their current system with you. You should also tell them that you are more than happy to answer their questions as you go. If they sound comfortable with your approach, they will feel more at ease with you which means you will get great results.
Requirement Gathering Questions
There is a skill in asking requirement gathering questions the right way. A few tips here 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 focusses 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 is one of the most powerful aspects amongst all requirement gathering techniques and can be used everywhere and in any conversation.
- Talk to the right stakeholder to get the right outcome. 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 review more questions and plan your requirement gathering interviews well. Be prepared for each interview! Read more on this in Business Analyst Courses.
Learn how you can use UML Use Cases Diagrams during an interview as a tool.
Requirement Gathering Techniques – Requirement 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 focussed your session will be. If you don’t have an agenda, 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 your project going!
- You as the facilitator can control the flow of a workshop with so much less effort with a prepared and planned session than if you walk in blind. You will appear professional, in control and your stakeholders will trust you.
Benefits of a running a requirement gathering workshop:
- People have to justify their views in front of a larger group of stakeholders. This often help with eliminating nonsense type requirements you might get if you only do one to one interviews.
- Discussion of each topic, refines and clarifies the requirement. Your requirement quality is typically much higher at the end of a workshop.
- Stakeholder ‘buy in’. Involving people in a group format on the topic of requirement gathering does wonders for stakeholder ‘buy in’ for the project.
Disadvantages of a running a requirements workshop:
- Out of all the Requirement Gathering Techniques this one takes the most 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 these requirement gathering activities than for other requirement gathering techniques but the upside is that your requirement quality is higher.
Requirement Gathering Techniques – Research and Observation
I put these two requirement gathering 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 techniques you choose to apply.
To job shadow 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. It becomes ‘real’ to you and you will translate and write your requirements with the people doing the actual jobs in mind.
When you do use ‘Observation’ as one of the requirement gathering techniques, keep these things in mind:
- Build up a picture in your mind (or on paper) of the end-to-end process a person follows to perform their average day in their job.
- If they allow questions, be selective and careful not to delve into too much detail with your questions or digress into a path of an exceptional circumstance.
- People will focus on what doesn’t work naturally, so you will get the picture fairly quickly once you spent some time with someone performing a job function or executing a business process. Take note of this and delve into the detail with them.
- Try and gather samples of forms, user training manuals and documented procedures that they follow to perform the role.
- Very important aspect of observation is to see what the system they are using is capable of, watch them use it, which parts of the process is perform manually and if possible try and understand the ‘why’ it is done that way.
Always remember to thank people who spent time with you! Build rapport when you are with them because you never know when you might to get back to them with more questions or observation requirements.