Obtaining Detailed Requirements

Mastering Business Requirements Elicitation: Part 1 Mastering Business Analysis Requirements Elicitation
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Let's take a look at obtaining detailed requirements. You as the BA are required to obtain detailed and complete requirements, right. That's your job really. In order for the business analyst to accomplish this task, you have to have excellent communication skills. Most business analysts are asked to write very specific, very detailed requirements without ever really being given a clear definition of requirement. Depending on your methodology and or your organizational standards, there can be different terms used to categorize requirements.

So let's first take a look at those. You can have technical requirements, business requirements, system requirements, security requirements, functional requirements, product requirements, user interface requirements, report requirements, software requirements, conceptual requirements, they can be called a lot of different things. So you've got to make sure That you are able to identify which things might mean the same thing. So software requirements can still be functional requirements, right? So some of the terminology is going to mean the same thing. Let's look at the definition of requirements.

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a requirement is something wanted or needed, something essential to the existence or occurrence of something else. A requirement is a condition or capability needed by a stakeholder to solve a problem or achieve an objective. That's what our definition of a requirement as related to business analysis, be a must have the ability to pay close attention to what this means or saying, to ask the right questions to get more specific details on the requirements. To be able to take notes while staying engaged in the conversation. Be able to repeat back what was heard to ensure correct understanding of what the person is stating, and keep the meaning onpoint and everyone engaged in the conversation. In order to effectively elicit requirements, you must stay engaged and focused on the conversation.

If not, you're going to miss important pieces of information related to specific requirements, you may get some of it, but you're not going to get all of it. It's your responsibility to understand the users problem and build systems that meet their needs. taking breaks throughout the meeting can help everyone stay focused, it's important to take breaks at regular intervals. So everyone has the opportunity to stretch, take a restroom break, make a call, etc. If everyone gets time to do those things, then they're more inclined to stay in the room and stay focused when needed. If you don't give them time to do those things.

We're going to start doing them in the meeting. You'll start seeing people looking at their phones, checking their email, if you say at the beginning of the meeting, that you're going to allow them time to do that, and therefore you want them to stay focused. You're going to have a better chance of keeping their attention during the meeting. There is a general rule that says if you ask why three times you'll get to the real requirement. And the question isn't necessarily always why right? It can be what, who, how, but the point is asking for more information, at least three times will generally lead you to what the root requirement is.

So we're going to test that theory here. We have a lady named Joan, who is our business analyst, and she's gathering requirements for a software application a company is using to sell their widgets, whatever that may be. Mark tells Joan, they need the ability to take payments. Jane asks mark, why he needs the ability to take payments. You might think that's a dumb question to ask right? And we've said it's okay as ba to ask them questions.

You want to lead them down a path. So simply ask them, why do you need the ability to take payments helped me understand that. Mark states that they have products for sale on their website, and they have to be able to take payments on the site. Someone does sighs to purchase a product, Joan asked Mark what type of payments they'll accept. Mark responds with MasterCard, Visa, debit cards, and check payments. Joan asks if there are a maximum number of items a person can buy in order to pay online, and if there is a minimum and or a maximum amount for the payments for any of the payment types, Mark responds, there's no limit to the number of items a person can buy.

And the max min limits are the same for all credit and debit cards, but it's a lower amount for checks. Minimum for credit and debit cards is $5 and the maximum is $1,000. For checks, the minimum is $5, but the maximum is $250. The initial requirement of need the ability to take payments was a vague requirement by asking three follow up questions. Joe now has too detailed requirements right it's split up into two. We need the ability to take payments via MasterCard, Visa and debit cards.

With a minimum amount of $5, and a maximum amount of 1000. And we need the ability to take payments via checks for a minimum amount of five and a maximum amount of $250. This is also going to spawn other questions that are related to payments. So some of the other questions that Joan could ask are things like, can they split the payment up with multiple cards and payment types? Or do they have to pay for the entire order with one payment transaction? Will the company need to store credit card information for the customers?

Because remember, if they do, now we've got some security compliancy things that we need to be concerned with? If so, how long will they need to store the information? Can customers keep multiple forms of payment stored on the company site or only one payment type can be saved? This will continue to spawn more discussion around payments and that's exactly how it should work. You as the BA have the responsibility to continue to ask questions and make the others think about things that they may not have even realized they need to have Until they talk completely through all the options that are related to taking payments. Now moving on to taking notes while you're staying engaged in the process.

This is one of the more difficult tasks that you'll do during a requirements meeting. You have to stay engaged in the conversation, but you're going to need to take notes because it's impossible to remember every decision that's being made during the meeting, right, you have to be able to take notes on decisions that are made. But you should also have someone else designated as a scribe for the meeting, if possible. If you can't officially have somebody else's scribe, if you have to take the notes, then just ask somebody else in the meeting if they wouldn't mind taking notes that they would share with you after the meeting is over. So you don't officially assign a scribe but you just asked somebody else to take notes that they'll be willing to share with you so that you can try to combine those notes and then come up with a complete list of requirements.

A note about note taking, let's just talk about that for a second because some people are going to give you really lengthy answers to questions that you ask, you want to make sure that you're capturing the actionable items and steps in the conversation. You don't need to capture the ancillary information that they're giving you. An easy example of that would be, for example, if they said to you, that part of their process is contacting another department, and they might say, you know, when I need to talk to somebody in the billing department, I will pick up the phone I call bill, if he doesn't answer that I leave him a message. If he doesn't call me back in two days, then then I send him a follow up email. If he doesn't respond to that, then I call them back again. And they're giving you a lot of detail about the like the literal, I pick up the phone and I call bill right.

You don't need to take that down necessarily in your notes, but what you would need to take down is that they contact the billing department, you don't need to say that it's bill and the billing department, right? Because the Next week, it could be Bob, Phil might leave. So you don't want to designate a person in your requirements, you just want to say what it is that they're doing. And if they're contacting them via phone, then you can say contacting them via phone, you don't need to say they pick up the phone, you know, they dial the number, right, those kind of details you don't need to put in there. But there are times that people will actually give you those types of details. At the beginning of the meeting, the BA should lay some ground rules.

And one of those rules should be that all subjects that come up not related to this meeting is going to be added to a parking lot for later discussion. A parking lot is simply a large piece of paper that's usually taped up to the wall. The paper gets used to capture any subjects that aren't relative to this particular meeting, but they need to be discussed at a later time. You want to make sure that you reassure the group that what they have to say is important. And while they may not be able to do a deep dive on all of the topics today, you want to ensure that the group from knows that you're taking them seriously. And that you will follow up later on those parking lot topics, right?

You want to make sure that they understand that they're being heard. keeping everyone engaged in a in person meeting can be as simple as making eye contact with everyone during the meeting and then occasionally calling out to the quiet ones to ask them questions and get them involved in the discussion. So if you have people that are giving you a lot of information, and they might be giving you things focused on the conversation, and then also things that need to go in that parking lot, right? And then you have other people that are not really participating at all, then you want to be able to draw them in, right? So you can say things like, Sandy, what are your thoughts on what Bill said? Don't say Sandy, do you agree with that?

Because then Sandy can simply say yes or no. Right? So ask the question in a way that draws Sandy into the conversation. There are some problems with What we call the after lunch energy issue, right? So if you see people not staying engaged, then there are some things that you can do at the beginning of meetings to help them stay focused and engaged, right. So some fun things you can do is hand out reward coupons.

That's a great idea. And then you can explain that the coupons are used when a good idea is presented. So you're kind of getting people to stay engaged in the meeting by spring, a little bit of competition, if you will, between people, right. So even though you might have a, you know, a little bit of an after lunch energy issue, or you may have people that are just generally normally quiet, either of those two situations can keep people engaged in the conversation. And you know, as far as the after lunch thing goes, I just want to say, I'm sure everybody knows what I mean by that, right? You have lunch, you're sitting in the afternoon meeting and all you can, you know, think about as an app that you desperately want.

So you really have to do whatever you can to keep things moving. If lunch is being served as part of the meeting, then definitely make sure that you don't serve heavy things like pasta and things like that. You also want to make sure that in the afternoon you're having snack breaks, might want to break people up into small discussion groups, get them to move around the room, you know, things like that, that you can do to kind of help with that energy. And then using those coupons or some other fun idea to kind of help keep people engaged may help. Also with that. There's also more of a challenge.

Let's just say when your meetings are being held by conference call, right? You can't see if people have low energy, you can't see if they're not engaged. If they're multitasking, right? Most likely they are if they're on the phone, right? You can't tell that they're checking their email or whatever else it is that they're doing besides really staying focused on the conversation. So there are some things that while it's a challenge that can help you with that.

One is at the beginning of the meeting, you take a roll call and write down the names of the people that are attending the meeting, and then ask everyone to announce their name before they start Talking so that everybody knows who's speaking. And then you want to make sure that you're still using that same tactic I mentioned before about calling out to people, right? So if you have people on the phone that are not engaging in the conversation again, draw them in, right, Sally, what do you think about what Bill just said? What are your thoughts on that, get them to engage in the conversation by calling them out by name. And just another tip for you. And this is especially true when you're on a ball and you can't see the person, make sure that you're writing down the name of the person that is talking.

So that's one reason that you want to ask everyone to announce their name before they talk. If you don't, unless these are people that you deal with all the time and you know, their voices, right? But even then write down their name when you're writing a note about what they said that way. If you go back and you look at your notes later, and you see that there's something else that you need to follow up with them about, you know who them are, right? If you write down that Bill said that, you know, it's bill you need to contact and you can also use that to re engage people in the conversation. So Bill said something but then bill got quiet.

You can say, Hey Bill, you mentioned blah, blah, blah. And ask him a follow up question about that. Right? Because you know, he's the one that said it. So I always like to write down the name of the person that's giving me information that I'm writing down

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