Archive for May, 2011

When are you done with Stakeholder Requirements?

Business Analysis is part science and part art.  Unfortunately, one of the aspects of it relating to art is how to decide when you are done.  There is no hard-fast rule that you should have X requirements for every Y stakeholders.  But there are a few techniques that you can use to evaluate your progress and increase your confidence in having a complete set of Stakeholder requirements.

1. IPO – Inputs, Processes, Outputs

When I suspect that I’m nearing the completion of my requirements gathering, I take a few minutes to walk through my process models (if I have any) and compare them to my requirements.  I evaluate whether all potential inputs have been satisfactorily documented in my requirements.  Then I review the business processes and whether each one seems to be completely defined, whether through requirements or assumptions.  Finally I evaluate my outputs.  Does every process have a clear owner of an output at the end?

2. CRUD – Create, Read, Update, Delete

I inherited this method from working with far too many Data Analysts in my career.  Whenever I have a requirement that involves the need for new information, I consider CRUD.  Do my users need the ability to just Create this information or do they also need the ability to Update, Read, or Delete it?  What about the variety of users based on their authentication levels?  I don’t suggest getting into the details that would lead you into Functional Requirements but you can make sure that you have all business user perspectives captured with this technique.

3. Industry Models

Many industries have models published that outline the business processes required in their field.  Many consulting firms or associations publish these documents.  I would encourage any Business Analyst to use every resource available to them to try to find out if one exists.  If you can’t find one – BUILD ONE!  While working as a Business Analyst for a Product Development team, my peers & I built a Spoke & Hub model.  We evaluated that every product launched (Hub) meant that we should consider a static list of business areas (Spokes).  This was very helpful for all of us and improved the consistency and completeness of our requirements.

Hopefully these ideas sparked your thought processes!  I’d love to hear what techniques you use for evaluating for completeness of your Stakeholder Requirements.  Post a comment and let me know what you’ve tried!


May 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

Bring Me An Option

Every night I get the same question from one of my kids – “What’s for dinner?”

And every night, I respond with some type of protein, a veggie, and sometimes a little treat (depending on my mood and taste buds).  Then I get the obligatory response – “oh… I don’t like that”.  At this point, I turn around and continue cooking, and encourage my child to get a job, a house of their own, and other such things that are required to be the decision-maker in their own home.

But tonight I was pleasantly surprised by the response that I received.  See, I believe it is my job as a parent to raise do’ers.  Not people who sit back and watch life happen but people who have passion and willingness to change the world.  Yes, it’s a tall order for a parent but it’s good to have goals.  Tonight showed me that I might be on the right track.

See, we have a few rules in our house

1. No bad words (which includes any word that doesn’t make someone’s heart feel good – such as ugly, dumb, stupid, etc)

2. If you have a problem, don’t cry about it – solve it.

3. If you don’t like what I offer, find an alternative yourself.

To me, these are things that future do’ers should do – and really, anyone who wants to be effective in the workplace.

Tonight, when I told my 7 year-old son that we were having steak for dinner, he paused.  No whining. No complaining.  He asked “if I helped cook fish sticks, could I eat that instead?”  That is what I call a break-through moment!  He not only withheld his unproductive whining, but he brought me a viable alternative solution which he offered to deliver himself.

Isn’t this what we should all do in the workplace?  When a situation arises at work that you don’t care for, don’t whine.  Don’t stand around in the hallways complaining about how unfair it is, or how “they” just don’t understand how this won’t work.  Offer an alternative.

First, make sure that you understand the objective of the change.  I would hope that as a manager would explain WHY a change was being made, and how the change would improve the conditions for the Customer, Shareholders, or Employees, I know this doesn’t always happen.  If this information is not offered, ask what is driving the change.  Unlike at home, I doubt if your manager will respond with “because I said so”.

Next, think about alternatives.  Consider the cost of having an alternative to the solution laid out by your manager.  Think about the pros & cons of both approaches.  Do your homework to make sure that your alternative is viable in both the short-term & long-term.  Make sure that your alternative doesn’t work just for you, but for every other team in the organization (assuming you are trying to influence broad change).

Finally, approach your manager.  Show them the pros & cons of both options, and ask if you can trial your alternative, or maybe do some additional research to help show how it might be a better fit for the organization.

At this point, hopefully your boss will respond positively.  You may not get an immediate “Yes” or may not even get a green-light at any point but hopefully they will see that you are willing to put some work into providing suggestions in a positive, constructive way.  And who knows, maybe they’ll see your behavior as the type they wish others to emulate, and will include you in the evaluation and decision-making process the next time a major change is required in the organization.  And this is a much better situation than having your boss hear that you are whining & moaning near the coffee pot about the changes rolled out.

One of my favorite parenting phrases is “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit”.  While I do enjoy the rhyming effect of this phrase, I wish I could add “or bring me another option” to the end of it.

May 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm 2 comments

More Than 1 Answer to a Question

In a recent requirements gathering session that I was having with some stakeholders, I was struck by a simple rule that I am going to adopt as a BA.  When a question is asked, by myself or a stakeholder, I’m going to seek out more than one answer.

Think of it like this – someone asks a question to a group, and almost immediately, a confident sounding person responds with a logical answer.  What does the group usually do?  Nod their heads, and then move onto the next topic.  But wait…. that was a response from one person with one perspective!  When you are eliciting requirements from a group of stakeholders, every person in that session brings to the table a wealth of information from past experiences, existing work experience, book knowledge, etc.  And we all know that there is usually more than one way to do things so why would I, as the BA leading the meeting, be satisfied with a single answer.

There is way too much risk to allowing the meeting to go forward with this one response.  What if someone in the room figures their input isn’t needed since someone else already spoke up, yet we miss valuable information because of their silence?  What if another person just figures the question is answered and they might get out of the meeting early if they just nod their head in agreement though they know of another potential answer.  Too much risk!

So here’s my plan.  When someone asks a question, I’ll ask the group for thoughts in response.  When Person A provides their response to the question, I’m going to accept their response.  Then I’m going to ask, are there any other logical answers based on other scenarios?  Are there logical answers based on other perspectives – perhaps from someone in a different role or department?  If I still get silence, so be it – I tried.  But there is a chance, that I’ll get additional input and that will be worth while the extra 90 seconds to ask the question.

Let me know what you think!  How do you gain input from others in your meetings?  Do you have any tricks for soliciting input from others?

May 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm 8 comments

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