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Cohesive Requirements Analysis

The importance of requirements analysis in Information Technology (IT) solutions is hardly new. Applying ample amount of resources on it is not an exception. These and other business systems analysis related challenges are ubiquitous. As a solution, they demand cohesive requirements analysis. In this article, analysis refers to requirements elicitation and related efforts performed in discovering, analyzing, and documenting business requirements.

Proposed cohesive requirements analysis delivers cohesive requirements which can be built and implemented by IT teams, traced back to project, program, or organizational objectives, and are within business and system scope. Cohesive requirements analysis also includes IT processes which make the process of analysis more efficient. All in all, requirements analysis becomes cohesive when it successfully delivers business vision and satisfies the development needs.

Facets of Cohesive Requirements Analysis

Initiate Cohesiveness through a Requirements Strategy Document:

For projects, efforts are undertaken to discover the business need, figure out system component associated with it, and elicit, analyze, and document the business requirements. Before initiating requirements analysis, it is necessary to work on its strategy. Cohesive requirements analysis suggests documenting and approval of requirements strategy document (RSD), which is comprised of

  • suggested requirements elicitation techniques,
  • allocation of business partner or stakeholder resources to specified modules or projects,
  • ratio of business analyst to business partner time,
  • comparison of business need to the requirements break down structure,
  • frequency of knowledge transfer sessions between business analysts and architects,
  • definition of levels of difficulty for functionalities,
  • approach to be used for traceability,
  • analysis deliverables approval processes, and
  • change and content management processes.

RSD may also include expectations, and templates of analysis deliverables. Getting consensus on RSD items from business partners and IT teams before initiating requirements analysis assists in building cohesiveness and speeds up requirements elicitation.

Cohesiveness in Business Value:

Requirements analysis responds to organizational challenges and validates the business need. Cohesive requirements capture the functionality from business, user, and data perspectives, which increases their correctness. They are not influenced by the development environment or technology being used. They are derived from business need and the organization’s responses. Thus, cohesiveness in requirements analysis allows requirements to be correct, consistent, and clear. Thus, cohesive requirements analysis forms the agreement between business partners and IT teams and provides an increased business value from the IT perspective.

Building Cohesiveness from Top:

For requirements analysis to be cohesive, steps should be taken from the beginning of project initiation. Analysis deliverables hierarchy such as vision document, scope statement, business process flows, data models, use cases, and requirements specifications help communicate the business perspective from top to bottom. The cohesive requirements analysis hierarchy generates analysis deliverables at various levels. The hierarchy of the deliverables assists in exposing details at all levels, resulting in cohesive requirements. Due to the generation of deliverables at various levels, architects and IT teams in the next phases can interpret and elaborate on the functionality better. This break-up in functionality from the top filters the business need and assists in transformation of cohesive requirements into system code.

Cohesiveness in Analysis Standards:

In analysis, it is challenging for business analysts to document all elements needed by designers, testers, and implementation teams. Following templates can assist in making the analysis of these requirements cohesive. For example, business process template allows business processes to be distinguished from system and non-system perspective. System processes contribute towards viability of the IT application and non-system processes assist work flow or system processes. Use case, data models, and other templates help in documenting business requirements in a cohesive manner. These standards driven requirements analysis assists in envisioning the system from both the business and IT perspective and results in more cohesion.

Cohesiveness in Responsibilities Definition:

Based on the development environment and methodology adopted, the organizational structure specific to the project or program is defined. As an aid to the organizational structure, clearly defining the responsibilities of each role is also advantageous. The  business analyst role is usually  responsible for eliciting, analyzing, documenting, validating, and communicating requirements. Business analyst may not be treated as the domain expert. On the other hand, business partners are responsible for requirements. Business analysts are often IT system analysis experts who are able to communicate the language spoken by business partners. Business partners provide business objectives, which often results in the organization’s response of an IT system(s). This cohesiveness in responsibilities definition sets the expectations and helps build cohesiveness.

Cohesiveness in Communication:

Quality of oral and written communication between business partners and business analysts is very critical to cohesive requirements analysis. Business partners dictate what should be included in the “new system” and business analysts analyze and document that through analysis deliverables. Through this communication, business partners express their view of the functionality required. Clarity and consensus among the business on business processes and rules can expedite this communication. Formal preparation and regular elicitation sessions between business partners and analysts can also greatly improve the quality of oral and written communication. From IT processes perspective, it is always advisable that business partners approve the analysis deliverables before they reach the IT teams to make sure that the communication of the requirements is cohesive.

Cohesiveness with Offshore Business Partners or Teams:

With system development is increasingly becoming global with team members located continents away from each other, cohesiveness between them is very crucial. Business analysts should efficiently utilize the time of the offshore business partner and utilize standardized templates for documentation. Document sharing services can also be adopted for content management. Vision document, RSD, project plan, design and build plan, test plan, and implementation plan should closely correspond to each other to best utilize the limited availability and allocation of offshore business partners. Audio and video resources can be employed to eliminate the eliminations of face to face communication. The numerous techniques available help in planning and coordinating cohesive requirements analysis with offshore (or virtual) business partners and teams.

Business Analyst’s Approach towards Cohesiveness:

Last but not least, business analyst’s approach towards cohesiveness plays a key role. Business analysts must make sure that the IT team has received all the elements they need to be able to generate their deliverables. They must be included in specific discussions with approvers and colleagues who may not understand their view of the business deliverables from a technical perspective. Business analysts should be able to supply the needs of the IT teams without compromising the business requirements approved by business partners. Business analysts should make sure that business requirements as defined by the business partners are not compromised. Adopting these suggestions can help make the requirements analysis and deliverables more cohesive.

In summary, RSD assists in defining analysis deliverables at various levels in the hierarchy, starting from the top. Cohesive requirements analysis delivers increased business value. Implementation of templates helps ensure that the needs of the IT team are also met. Responsibilities definition and organizational structure is a valuable aid to cohesive requirements analysis. Thus, cohesiveness can be implemented as a discipline within the expanded team.

Cohesive requirements analysis allows business objectives to be drilled down up to the requirements level, where they can be defined, built, tested, and implemented. Cohesive requirements analysis generates requirement deliverables at successive level of detail and increments of functionality. From now on, whenever someone asks you “what’s your requirements strategy?” you may answer “we have a cohesive requirements analysis strategy”.

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