Preparing to Elicit Requirements

Experienced business analysts and project managers know how important it is to plan your work activities before you start doing them.  Planning doesn’t have to take a lot of time in order to be helpful.  Perhaps you sit down with your business analysis team and divvy up the requirements work for the week or have a short status session so everyone is on the same page.  I think planning your elicitation activities may be one of the most important planning steps in any project.   I am happy to report that the BABOK® Guide agrees with me, imagine that!

Funny thing how the first task in the Elicitation knowledge area is planning the specific elicitation activity or activities that you want to perform. These activities could be face-to-face interviews with an individual, creating a survey to send out to a thousand worldwide end users, or facilitating a group workshop of fifteen people. These activities could be done by a single person (you) or be spread across a team of business analysts. Sounds a lot like Planning 101, doesn’t it?

Your elicitation preparation and planning work makes sure that your necessary team and stakeholder resources are organized and scheduled in advance.  This step also allows you to get all of your “ducks in a row”, from who does what to meeting room logistics to required materials to attendance and attention from the right folks. The recommended components of elicitation preparation and planning work include:

  • Building a detailed schedule for the elicitation activity or activities
  • Defining the more detailed tasks that need to be done
  • Figuring out the dates and resources for doing those detailed tasks

Funny enough, the BABOK® Guide recommends that you use one or more elicitation techniques on yourself and your business analysis team when planning elicitation activities.  Some of the suggested techniques that may help you figure out what needs doing and how it will be done include:

  • Brainstorming
  • Document Analysis
  • Focus Groups
  • Interface Analysis
  • Interviews
  • Observation
  • Prototyping
  • Requirements Workshops
  • Survey/Questionnaire

Make sure you have enough inputs to adequately prepare to elicit your project requirements. These key inputs are produced by a number of other business analysis tasks, and include deliverables such as the project’s business case, business need and solution scope.  The business case assesses the costs and benefits of a proposed project.  The business need defines the problem or opportunity being faced by the business.  The solution scope provides the business analyst with the set of capabilities a solution must deliver to meet a defined business need.  It is helpful if you have completed your stakeholder analysis and produced a list of stakeholder roles and responsibilities.  This list of business analysis stakeholders is used to identify the stakeholders who should participate in your requirements elicitation activities for developing the business, stakeholder, solution and transition requirements on your project

The BABOK® Guide also recommends that you do a number of tasks as part of your requirements elicitation preparation.  Remember to take into account your location in the project life cycle as well as the type or types of requirements you plan to elicit.     

  • Clarifying the scope of your selected elicitation techniques and gathering any supporting materials
  • Scheduling the resources (people, facilities, equipment)
  • Notifying appropriate parties of the elicitation plan

There are several ways to add value when preparing for requirements elicitation on your projects. You should take the time to agree with the involved stakeholders about how you will provide them with feedback, verify the information, and sign off as you agree on your elicitation results. You should also make certain that you establish the ground rules up front for dealing with individuals and groups during your project’s scheduled elicitation activities.

Preparing for elicitation yields two distinct deliverables: the scheduled resources and the supporting materials. The scheduled resources are exactly what they sound like – the people, facilities and equipment that you need for requirements elicitation. This deliverable should include the resource name or names, the location of the elicitation activity and anything else that might be needed.  Many folks, myself included, use a worksheet or spreadsheet to plan and track this information as well as collect the information that will be gathered. Supporting materials are anything that you need in order to perform the elicitation activity.  These materials could be required for a particular elicitation technique, such as having a whiteboard available for a requirements workshop.

Remember that you are responsible for adequate requirements elicitation preparation. On large projects, this responsibility often falls to the collective members of the business analysis team, who will be simultaneously eliciting requirements information from different stakeholders.  Be sure to coordinate who is doing what when, and make sure you plan for sitting down and accumulating what everyone has learned.  It is worth the time spent planning to have a smooth requirements elicitation experience – both for the team and the stakeholders who are involved.

Check out Learning Tree’s introductory business analysis courseif you are looking for a great way to get started or fine tune your skills as a business analyst on your projects.  This course allows you to practice and fine tune your skills planning for and eliciting requirements on your projects. 

If you have any recommendations regarding your elicitation planning activities and how you plan for gathering requirements on your projects, please reply to this blog post and share them with us. Happy elicitation planning!

Susan Weese

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