Using Face-to-Face Techniques to Elicit Requirements

A wide range of requirements elicitation techniques exist for you to use during requirements development. It is essential to understand what is available to you and then choose your techniques based on your situation, your stakeholders and your organization. Consider mixing it up. Using multiple techniques to elicit requirements information can be very powerful and produce higher quality results.

I always put my requirements elicitation techniques into the following buckets:  face-to-face, from a distance, show it to me, the existing stuff and the group mind.  We have already talked about performing document analysis on the existing stuff from a previous post. Now let’s take a closer look at the face-to-face elicitation techniques, such as interviews and observation.

Interviews are the traditional method of eliciting information from people. They involve speaking with the stakeholder or user directly and asking questions relevant to the proposed project effort and their specific needs. Interviews are simple to conduct and provide insight into user needs. They also support in-depth understanding of the user requirements.  

Observation is another powerful face-to-face elicitation technique. People often find that detailed tasks are difficult to clearly describe in spoken words. Observation allows us to shadow the users to see firsthand how they interact with systems, processes, and each other. Observation is a way to fill in the blanks when you think something might be missing from what is being said.  

A useful structure is to have a small team involved with the observation, where each member systematically records data relating to a specific area:

  • Task analysis: describe sequence and timing of actions and events
  • Technical/performance issues: look for satisfactory technical performance
  • Functional issues: existence of the right product functions and features
  • Emotional issues: How did the user feel? What expressions or comments were made?
  • User issues: ease of use, ergonomics, and specific user skills needed
  • Environment issues: location, access, noise, heat, other issues

Well, that’s a quick look at face-to-face requirements elicitation techniques. We will take a look at the from a distance techniques in the next post. Happy eliciting!

Susan Weese

Business analysts are increasingly becoming the critical liaisons between business and solution development (oftentimes IT), so they must communicate and relate with equal effectiveness throughout all levels of an organization. Download this free White Paper to see which five common obstacles business analysts face and how to address them to ensure success.

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