Posted by tac_admin, February 20, 2013

Ask and You Shall Receive

3D people with talk bubblesDuring requirements sessions, it is the Business Analyst’s job not only to capture the requirements being given, but also to facilitate discussion about those requirements and taking the conversation to a deeper level.

BAs are the liaison between the business (SMEs) and the technology team (Developers, system architects, DBAs, etc.) and it is the responsibility of the BA to communicate effectively between the groups.

In order to completely document requirements the Business Analyst must ask questions and listen to the answers.

Sounds easy enough, right? Ask questions, listen. But how you go about asking questions and how well you listen can determine the outcome of your requirements.

Don’t let a communication breakdown get in your way. Instead, commit these communication tips to memory to ensure your requirements are the best the can possibly be:

Ask Open-Ended Questions

An open-ended question is one that evokes a longer response than a “yes” or “no” (a closed-question). Broad, open-ended questions have great power as a questioning technique for analysts because they show interest in other person’s situation, encourage more dialogue, and lend themselves to effective follow-up questions based on the speaker’s response.

Examples of open-ended questions:

  • “What is your opinion of…”
  • “What are some possible solutions to…”
  • “What additional tasks are required?”

Techniques:

  • Keep questions simple.
  • Listen for operative words in the speaker’s response to build follow-up questions.
  • Use the “funnel technique” to build to more specific, detailed questions as you go.

Frame Questions Properly

As part of eliciting requirements, the Business Analyst is responsible for posing clear, concise questions and listening for a response.Once the response is given, the analyst must digest the information and determine if follow-up questions are necessary before continuing.

Probing for additional information for business processes should include the following questions:

  • Why is it done?
  • What does it involve?
  • Who does it?
  • When is it done?
  • Where is it done?
  • How is it currently done? (There may be more than one way.)
  • How might it be done in the future?
  • What constraints affect the process?

Probing for additional information for business data should include the following questions:

  • Who uses the data?
  • Where does the data originate?
  • Why do we need this data?
  • What is the data?
  • How is the data defined?
  • What are the constraints on the data?

Practice Active Listening

While the speaker answers your questions, it’s important to fully listen and engage with their responses in order to elicit complete requirements. To improve your listening skills, be sure to…

  • Stay focused on the topic.
  • Respond in a professional manner to what the person is saying, not what you believe they’re saying.
  • Remember we all hear and process information differently. As the first part of your response, repeat back to the person what you heard them say. This will help ensure you’re responding to the correct comment or question.
  • Maintain a relaxed yet alert posture.
  • Minimize distracting gestures.
  • Acknowledge the person using head nods or smiles.
  • Face the person squarely instead of from the side.
  • Lean slightly towards the person instead of sitting stiffly upright or slouching.

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