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Tag: Elicitation

A New Series about Requirements Management and Much More

calendar-deadline-aug15.pngMore interesting and informative articles and blogs again, this month! A couple of new articles, one of which is the first in a new four-part series. Our bloggers are back and there are a couple of news items in our IIBA section we’re sure will get your attention. 

Introducing the new BA Times bookstore and library!

We are pleased to announce that the BA Times bookstore and library is now live! You can review and buy books, suggest new ones to add to the library, and write reviews and ratings!

  • I Don’t Have Time to Manage Requirements; My Project is Late Already! Elizabeth Larson and Richard Larson take a look at how imposed deadlines can really have a negative affect to requirements management and, ultimately, the project itself. 
  • Documents; The Neglected Side of Business Information Automation. Many companies are working to acquire or develop high tech business solutions. Mark Crandall believes that people, processes, paper and technology must work together to achieve success. 
  • The Need for Speed. Adam Kahn worries about the fact that so many of us are having to do more with less, but he offers some practical tips to make your time go further.
  • Will PMI Agree that BA Must Precede Projects? It’s a lot easier to make project estimates and plans if a BA has been there first. That’s the view that Marcos Ferrer shares with us in his blog.
  • The Value of CBAP Certification and IIBA Monthly Webinars Start August 26, 2008. Two important announcements from IIBA that are well-worth checking out, especially if you’re considering CBAP certification.

Getting Back to Basics: Fourth Fundamental – Choosing Elicitation Techniques

Since April, I’ve been writing a series of articles for this website about the basic competencies of business analysis. I’ve been doing this for a couple of reasons. First, I enjoy staring at my computer for hours on end and thinking about grammar. Secondly, and more importantly, the enormous influx of available information over the last several years has caused many business analysts to lose track of the core, basic principles of this vital discipline.

So far, I’ve written three articles, which have covered understanding your organization’s overall goals, creating a common vocabulary among your team and identifying the sources from which you’ll extract requirements. For my fourth article, I’ll be covering elicitation techniques.

A Pre-Elicitation Meeting
In articles like this, writers often make things seem easier than they actually are. Therefore, let me caution that there are a number of complications inherent to elicitation. For starters, your customers and stakeholders, with all due respect, likely won’t understand the process that you’re taking them through. Furthermore, because each stakeholder is most interested in his or her individual needs, that individual will be less conscious of the many interdependencies that exist between requirements. To combat this, it’s a good idea to look back at the stakeholder categories you’ve developed (see the third article in this series), sit down with the groups-either virtually or in real life-and walk them through your goals and expectations regarding elicitation. This is an excellent time to establish individual roles and to let them know that you’ll be coming back to them soon, when it’s time to talk validation.

Four Elicitation Opportunities
I recently saw an infomercial for a machine that sorts change.  Simply dump your bucket of mixed-up coins in and it organizes them all into neat, coherent little piles.  I immediately thought of business analysis-particularly requirements elicitation.

Say a client comes to you and says, “Let’s build a rocket!” Immediately after determining that this client is sane, you’d find yourself with a big bucket of mixed-up questions and ideas. What color will the rocket be? Where is a good place to buy rocket fuel? How far into space should the rocket go? Do rocket scientists get paid by the hour? As a business analyst, it’s your job to use the practices we’ve already discussed and requirements elicitation to sort all of those random questions and ideas into neat little piles of requirements that can be used to meet your ultimate goal. Here are four opportunities for elicitation and a look at some of the techniques to consider for each:

1. Enterprise Analysis
Enterprise analysis can help you develop a vision for your potential product or solution. Staying with our rocket-building theme, it’s where you’ll begin to get a sense of what your rocket is going to need to be able to do. Two useful techniques at this stage are brainstorming and surveys. When dealing with a group of experts, brainstorming sessions are effective because the group will have an inherent understanding of logistics and the reality of the situation. Conversely, if you’re dealing with a group of, say, non-rocket scientists, consider conducting surveys. This will help to limit tangents and hone ideas based on the questions you choose to include.

2. Requirements Definition
When defining your requirements, consider joint application design (JAD) sessions. Like brainstorming sessions, JADs work best when dealing with a group of stakeholders who have a high level of subject matter expertise. However, unlike brainstorming sessions, they may run for days at a time and follow very specific agendas. A detailed agenda lets you ensure that all uncertainties are unearthed and that no miscommunications occur.

3. Requirements Analysis and Documentation
Here, as you begin to go deeper into determining the needs and conditions required to build your rocket, analysis becomes vital-as in gap analysis, root-cause analysis and force-field analysis. Gap analysis enables you to identify the “gap” between where you are and where you want to be. Root-cause analysis, which is perfect for the neurotic among us, considers all of our problems and identifies the “root causes” of those problems. And, force-field analysis, which derives from the social sciences, identifies the “forces” that influence progress toward a goal-both positive and negative.

4. Solution Assessment and Validation
With your solution and its requirements in sight, it’s essential to circle back to your stakeholders for validation. As obvious as this may sound, startlingly often, business analysts fail to ensure the validity of the requirements that they’ve elicited. Multi-voting and prototyping will help you build consensus and demonstrate how your solution will materialize, going forward. Criteria-based grids and impact/effort grids are effective, too, as they weigh requirements against formal criteria and rank them in terms of importance and feasibility. 

Next Time – Choosing the Best Modeling Technique
Tune in next month for article number five of five. In this, the exciting series finale, we’ll bring all of the back-to-basics practices together and close out with a discussion of modeling techniques.

Glenn R. Brûlé, Director of Client Solutions at ESI, has more than 18 years experience in many facets of business, including project management, business analysis, software design and facilitation. At ESI, he is responsible for supporting a global team of business consultants working with Fortune 1000 organizations. These engagements focus on understanding, diagnosing and providing workable business solutions to complex problems across various industries. Glenn was formerly a Director at Large for the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) where he was responsible for forming local chapters of the IIBA around the world.

Group Dynamics and Requirements Elicitation

As an information technology professional, developing your business acumen is important. One of the skills you need is the ability to facilitate. In your case, it is all about “facilitation for elicitation of requirements” to solve business problems. In working with groups, there are a number of dynamics that the facilitator needs to be aware of. It is helpful if you consider the different group characters and how to deal with them.

The Isolator
This is that one person who remains outside the group or is thinking about previous topics. Consider spending time helping people get acquainted or have discussions using pairing and triads. Provide opportunities for debriefing or summarizing what was discussed. Get the participants involved.

The Monopolizer
We all know this person. They monopolize the time and focus of the group. Be clear on your expectations, use your body language to hurry the speaker or, when they take a breath, say “thank you” and ask for other comments. You can also use a parking lot to write their points down. It is best not to interrupt. However, it is OK to watch for the talkers to draw a breath, and then attempt to regain control by leaping into the instant of silence this creates. Move fast, but speak softly and gently.

The Facilitator as Expert
As the facilitator, you should never set yourself up as the expert. You are there to understand the requirements and help establish direction. Consider avoiding answering every question yourself by letting group members respond to each other. Do not feel obliged to comment on everything that everyone says. Reduce your own authority by sitting down with the group.

Group Sharply Divided
This is where the groups are together physically but not together in interests or point of view. Mix the group up and get people to move around the room. Put them in new requirement work teams and assign the groups a specific relevant task to complete.  Have team members present and then debrief. If a solution cannot be reached, get agreement to park it! Make sure you ask the group if they feel comfortable moving on even though the issue dividing them is not settled. Be prepared with several group exercises, tools and techniques. Most important; keep cool, detached, and unhurried. Use a light touch.

Antagonistic Duo
These are the two people exchanging negative vibes and making everyone uncomfortable. Confirm that the conflict is positive and ask them to continue their disagreement. Set the stage by moving them closer together, arrange other group members as observers, and establish a scribe. Most importantly make explicit ground rules for conflict. Ask group members for feedback. Get everyone involved by taking the issue away from the duo by saying, “You have highlighted an important issue for us.” Here is an exercise for the entire group to participate in that continues exploring these issues, but in a different way.

The Cozy Duo
Here two friends are choosing to give each other comfort. They are making side conversations. This is not alright. The best solution is change the teams and rearrange the seating locations at a break to split the cozy duo up. Position the change as an opportunity to get a different perspective.

Unresolved Members
People are not engaged. It happens. Sometimes people do not understand why they are participating; they never wanted to participate; they just do not care or maybe they are bored. Break time! Check the thermostat and drop the heat in the room. Maybe change things around. Consider a group exercise, a short controversial video on the topic, Have the group brainstorm on a new agenda and create consensus. Be brave and leave the room while they do it. The break may help you to refocus and help them to become more active.

Highly Defensive Group
In this case the group members have erected barriers to protect their personal or professional images. This is about self-preservation. You need to get people talking and sharing in a low threat way. Move slowly with no pressure. Focus on facts and intellectual work for a time, gradually introducing small amounts of selective attitude. Avoid role-playing. Be open to revealing more about yourself.  Sometimes this sets the stage for other people to reveal information.

The Big Group
If the group has many members and no sense of inter-relatedness, be prepared to use pairs, triads and work groups. Rearrange the group into round tables so they can see one-another. Get people discussing specific related topic. Make sure you walk around the room making contact with people. Establish “associate facilitators” to manage the different groups. The larger the group the more ground rules, definition of roles and leadership required. Avoid feeling and attitude work with large groups. Keep people on track.

The most important thing as a senior professional, business analyst, manager or leader in developing your facilitation skills is to have fun and enjoy the process. Find ways to enhance being a facilitator and applying requirements elicitation best practices. Develop your group dynamic skills along with the tools and techniques of requirements elicitation. Remember to leverage the group’s unique character and get the members engaged.

Richard Lannon is an international business and technology industry veteran turned corporate speaker, facilitator, trainer and advisor. He specializes in aligning the enterprise and technical skills to common business objectives. Richard helps organizations and professionals identify what’s important, establish direction and build skills that positively impact their bottom line. He provides the blueprint for your organization to be SET (Structured, Engaged and Trained). His clients call him the SETability Expert. He can be reached at [email protected] or 403-630-2808