Business Analysts Don’t Really “Gather” Requirements

Gathering Requirements
Gathering Requirements

It is common knowledge that the biggest reason for IT project failure is poor requirements. If the requirements that the developers are working from are wrong, incomplete or otherwise inadequate, that project is doomed to join the 70% of IT projects that fail every year.

So why not simply gather good (SMART) requirements? Ask any business analyst and they will tell you that the biggest problem they face is getting users to tell them what they really want out of a new system or process. Why? The reasons are varied. Sometimes it appears that users simply won’t communicate what they really want. Sometimes it appears that the business analyst is asking all the wrong questions. Sometimes it appears that the users change their minds all the time.

The truth is that the users usually don’t know what they want. Most times their requirements are hovering around in their minds in an incomplete or even inconsistent state. It is the task of the business analyst to partner with the users and stakeholder to wade through the ambiguity to discover the evolving requirements.

Requirements Elicitation and Discovery

The process of extracting, drawing out, obtaining and then negotiating the requirements for a new or changed system or business solution is called Requirements Elicitation, but still popularly referred to as requirements gathering.
Requirements elicitation is crucial to the success of any project. It is also a challenging and intensive process that relies on a lot of involvement from the business analyst as well as the stakeholders. As a business analyst, you and your team will have to motivate stakeholders to work with you to describe the business solution.

Requirements Elicitation Techniques

One of the keys to success in the requirements elicitation phase of any project is to have a wide range of elicitation skills and techniques at your disposal so that you can pick the right technique for developing the right requirements. Some excellent elicitation techniques are:

  • Brainstorming
  • Elicitation Workshops and Discovery Sessions
  • Interviewing
  • Surveys
  • Documentation Review
  • Interface Analysis
  • Prototyping
  • Focus Groups
  • Observation
  • User Task Analysis
  • Documentation Study

Choosing the Right Technique for Every Situation

Interviewing is a very effective way of obtaining high-level needs and constraints that may affect a solution, but it is not appropriate for generating new ideas or suggesting fresh approaches to the solution. In the latter case, brainstorming would be the right technique.

Learning New Elicitation Techniques and Skills

To be an effective business analyst, take the time to master the requirements elicitation techniques that are available to you. This way you will be better able to serve your team and stakeholders better during the elicitation process.

The Business Analyst Boot Camp curriculum covers all of the requirements elicitation techniques listed and others not discussed here. The Boot Camp training on elicitation skills covers what the techniques are, when to use them, how to use them, and how to conduct each type of elicitation session. You will explore and learn ways of employing the techniques, as well as the proper timing and situations in which the elicitation techniques are most effective.

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