Business Analysis Technique: Brainstorming

According to the BABOK® Guide, brainstorming is one of the 16 required techniques in the fundamental knowledge base of an effective business analyst.   Why would this creative information gathering technique be a required competency for a business analyst?  Let’s have a look.  

Brainstorming targets creative thinking about a problem in order to come up with a set of new ideas, options, and approaches.   The approach taken to brainstorming is twofold: a creative and wide-open idea generation session followed by idea reduction activities.

In order to conduct a brainstorming session, the business analyst steps through three stages – preparation, idea generation and idea reduction:

Preparation:

  1. Clearly define the area of interest for the session
  2. Determine the time limit for the session based upon the size of the group (the larger the group, the longer the session tends to be in order to allow everyone to contribute)
  3. Identify the facilitator for the session
  4. Identify the 6 to 8 participants for the session representing the desired range of background and knowledge relative to the session topic
  5. Set participant expectations for a non-judgmental, productive session that generates as many creative ideas as possible
  6. Establish criteria for evaluating and rating the resulting ideas

Idea generation:

  1. Conduct the session
    1. Share new ides without discussion, criticism or evaluation
    2. Record all ideas on a whiteboard or using post-it notes
    3. Encourage participants to be creative and to build on ideas of others
  2. Elicit as many ideas as possible within the defined time period

Idea reduction:

  1. Use the evaluation criteria to discuss and evaluate the resulting ideas
  2. Create a condensed list of ideas (idea reduction), combining where appropriate and eliminating duplicates
  3. Rate the resulting ideas
  4. Distribute the final idea list to the appropriate parties

The success of brainstorming sessions depends upon the willingness of the participants to actually participate and contribute.  It is essential that ideas not be debated during idea generation in order to maximize contributions from the group.  Personal feelings and organizational politics should also be set aside during the session, if possible.

Well, that is our closer look at one of the 16 recommended techniques used by business analysts, brainstorming.  I have found this technique to be of great help on many projects, for requirements elicitation and also for project planning. Give a shout if you have another BABOK® technique you would like to explore in more detail!

Susan Weese

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