Posted by tac_admin, December 5, 2012

It’s All About Technique

When it comes to eliciting requirements, the BA needs to use their judgment to decide which option makes the most sense for the project. Of the four recommended techniques for eliciting business requirements, they may choose the Interview method, JAD (Joint Application Development) sessions, the Survey method, or the Brainstorming method.

To give you an idea of what each of these techniques entail, take a look at the breakdown below:

Interview Method

The Interview Method is a conversation with stakeholders to elicit or validate needs and requirements. This technique may even include one or more stakeholders.

The interview may involve a question and answer session used to discover other potential stakeholders and any discrepancies between needs, the high-level requirements derived from those needs, and the resulting detailed requirements.

This format also facilitates obtaining approval from stakeholders on their needs, requirements, and any changes to them.

Example of Questions to Ask:

  • What have you already tried?
  • Why now?
  • What will you settle for?

During the interview method, the BA may be responsible for identifying the stakeholders or by working with the appropriate project team member to get the list of stakeholders.

The BA is also responsible for preparing questions ahead of the scheduled meeting and distributing the questions to the stakeholder or stakeholders.

During the meeting, the BA must take notes and, when possible, engage another person in attendance to also take notes to record information discussed in the meeting and any decisions resulting from the meeting.

JAD Session

The Joint Application Development (JAD) technique is an extended, facilitated workshop. This technique involves collaboration between stakeholders and systems analysts to identify needs or requirements [http://theanalystcoach.net/2011/07/eliciting-requirements/] in a concentrated and focused effort.

JAD Process Steps:

  • Define the purpose, scope, and objectives of the JAD session, selecting the JAD team, invite and obtain commitment to attend sessions from the appropriate stakeholders, and schedule the session.
  • It is important to obtain management commitment to support the process and identify the appropriate stakeholders.
  • Become more familiar with the product or service; gather preliminary information, obtaining any models.
  • Prepare any visual aids, developing a realistic agenda, prepping the recorder, and preparing the meeting room.

As a business analyst , you may act as the facilitator during this session. The facilitator is the key person in the group and is responsible for planning, executing, and managing the session. The facilitator will also know how to direct people in order to get the best information from them.

Survey Method

The Survey Method is an electronic or paper based method of soliciting needs or requirements from stakeholders. This technique entails a list of questions directed at identifying stakeholder needs or requirements.

Survey Method Process Steps:

  • Decide what you want to know and how you will analyze the data before you develop questions.
  • Look for questions or ideas from other sources to inspire the writing of your method.
  • Write questions to be as specific as possible. Use simple, straightforward language. Avoid the use of jargon or terminology only a few people would grasp.
  • Write short questions to ensure reader understanding.
  • Limit the number of choices available to a question to five or less (if applicable).
  • Offer a “don’t know” or “no opinion” option, so people do not invent answers.
  • Vary the format of the questions to keep people interested.
  • When you have written the survey questions, it is important to test them to make sure that the language is current, the questions are not biased, and the questions are relevant to the purpose of the survey.
  • Deliver the set of questions to the stakeholder for their response.
  • Provide a date by which the answers are to be returned.

The business analyst is also the survey author, meaning you are responsible for crafting questions to solicit the needs and requirements from stakeholders.

Once the answers have been received, the author is responsible for recording the answers into a document for confirmation by the survey method respondents. To develop a useful method, the writer should be familiar with the purpose of the evaluation and ideally have some experience with developing surveys.

Brainstorming Method

Brainstorming is considered a group facilitation technique and is used in requirements sessions to generate ideas, approaches, and issues/risks. Because business is increasingly complex and has many interrelated parts, it requires the contribution of many experts with diverse skills and perspectives. Using the brainstorming method is an effective way to bring the needed SMEs together.

Brainstorming Method Process Steps:

  • Decide on the type of brainstorming—open or structured—and stick to it. As the business analyst leading the meeting, you should make this decision.
  • Clearly and concisely state the objective of the meeting.
  • Create an environment where participants feel encouraged to participate and believe that their time is used effectively.
  • Establish ground rules at the beginning of the session, such as…
  1. Don’t discuss the ideas during the brainstorming session (the brainstorming session is just to get ideas out there.
  2. Do not dismiss an idea: this can cause a person to “clam up” and no longer share ideas.
  3. Do not discount a person or idea.
  4. The only discussion you can have during the meeting is questions to clarify the idea.
  5. Build on each other’s ideas and suggestions during the meeting. The BA should give rewards for the craziest ideas.
  6. You should have a timekeeper, a facilitator, and a scribe (someone to capture the ideas) in attendance during the meeting. While it’s not really feasible to expect the project to pay someone to sit in the meeting and tell you when it’s time for a break, lunch, etc., you do need to appoint that role to someone in the room.
  7. Determine the process you will use for combining like/similar ideas and categorizing and summarizing the brainstorm results.
  8. Publish an agenda prior to the meeting.
  9. Schedule multiple meetings if the issue/project is complex and requires a break to reduce meeting fatigue.
  10. Schedule follow-up meetings.
  11. Use internal resources (e.g., senior BAs and process improvement experts) to help with sorting the categories on large projects.
  12. Use prioritization techniques to sort ideas. Votes can be given to team members to indicate their choice for the top ideas to consider taking forward for more analysis.

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2 responses to “It’s All About Technique”

  1. […] times, requirements sessions start off with a discussion of business needs, only to quickly derail to the implementation […]

  2. […] Joint Application Development or JAD technique is an extended, facilitated workshop that allows BAs to identify needs and requirements. JAD sessions focus on the use of highly structured, well-planned meetings to identify the key components of system development projects through collaboration between stakeholders and systems analyst. […]

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