One of the most important skills a business analyst should have is the ability to perform requirements elicitation/analysis. The requirements gathering and elicitation process should lead to the preparation of a detailed requirements document. Some of the commonly used elicitation techniques are outlined below:
Business analysts can use brainstorming, a group creativity technique to generate ideas, identify root causes of problems, as well as solve complex business problems. During requirements gathering, brainstorming can be used to get a variety of ideas from a group of people and to identify possible solutions to problems and may also be combined with voting to prioritize ideas. Brainstorming can also be used to make requirements clear and is one of the best ways to generate lots of ideas on a particular topic in a short period of time.
A focus group involves a gathering of stakeholders who represent the customer and can be used to collect information in a relatively short period of time. In a focus group, multiple viewpoints can be shared and discussed with the assistance of a facilitator. The feedback gathered from a focus group can be used to identify or validate requirements. A focus group can also be used as a way of identifying the stakeholder’s attitudes and beliefs about the solution.
Prototyping is a requirements gathering and elicitation technique that can be used to gather preliminary requirements for building an initial version of the solution referred to as a prototype or demo. The prototype can be shown to the stakeholders who will review and give recommendations for improvement so as to meet business requirements. Prototypes are very effective, particularly where the solution involves the implementation of new technology and can help stakeholders visualize what the final product will look like.
One of the core competencies of a business analyst is the ability to conduct meetings with stakeholders to gather and validate their requirements. This normally involves meeting scheduling, setting the meeting agenda items, facilitating discussions, and documenting meeting minutes. Meetings are also commonly used as a platform for obtaining feedback from team members and taking corrective action where necessary. In an agile environment, daily standup meetings of 5 to 15 minutes duration are used to provide quick status updates.
Interviews are one of the most effective ways of gathering information from the stakeholders and can be used to engage with stakeholders, identify, elicit, and document requirements. Business analysts can use either structured or unstructured interviews depending on the situation. A structured interview uses preset questions, which are asked to stakeholders and an unstructured interview uses spontaneous questions which are not determined in advance. Interviews offer a business analyst an opportunity to establish rapport with the interviewee and get instant feedback. User stories are commonly used in scrum projects for iterative requirements gathering and elicitation.
Facilitated workshops involve a group of individuals at once and can be a very effective way of gathering requirements and establishing collaboration between business analysts and stakeholders. During a requirements workshop, a facilitator will play a leading role by presenting the topics to be discussed as well as coming up with documentation. In information technology projects, Joint Application Development (JAD) sessions which are highly structured, facilitated workshops can help bring together business analysts and key customer stakeholders to quickly come to an agreement on the requirements.
Document analysis involves reviewing the existing documentation such as business processes procedures, business rules, project charter, project plan, business case, stakeholder register, risk register, lessons learned, business process models, and data models. Document analysis can also be effective when stakeholders are not available to supply information during the requirements gathering process. Document review can also help during the creation of the as-is process flow diagrams in the business requirements document.
A survey is a data gathering method that is used to collect, analyze, and interpret the views of a group of people from a target population. A questionnaire can be used in a survey as a cost-effective way of gathering and eliciting requirements from a large number of people in a short period of time. Questionnaires can also be effective in cases where the respondents are based in various geographical locations. As part of the survey, a sample is created from a group of people to represent a population, and the results are analyzed.
Observation of a process presents an opportunity to interact with stakeholders within an organization. Observations can be used effectively with other techniques such as interviewing and surveys to help gather and validate requirements. In passive observation, business analysts do not interact with the stakeholders during the observation process while in active observation, the business analyst can interact with the stakeholders and ask questions or even participate in the activities.
Tapera Mangezi, PMP, PMI-PBA, SMC, is the founder and director of Proximate Academy, a project management training and consultancy company. He is also a certified senior SAP plant maintenance consultant and project management consultant with many years of experience in working on various projects within the utilities, energy, and public sectors, and the manufacturing, logistics, facilities, and mining industries. Tapera has a strong engineering background and also holds various other certifications. He is currently working towards his MSc in Business Management with a specialization in Project Management at the Edinburgh Napier University. Tapera writes about business analysis and business processes.