«A penny for your thoughts» or how to involve stakeholders into process of
Hi guys, in this blog we are going to discuss the most difficult for business analyst task, namely how to involve client in the process of requirement elicitation and try to find the best ways to make this process simple during all project stages. From my point of view here are the most effective ways to involve stakeholders into process of requirement elicitation:
1. Explain the client advantages of elicitation process and advantages of active participation of all stakeholders in it. All in the same boat
2. Create positive atmosphere inside stakeholder`s team
3. Do not overload stakeholders with questions, make meetings short but effective. Not so fast cowboy
4. Postpone more hard decisions in order to rethink them. Sleep on it
5. Make the elicitation process interesting (use different approaches for requirement elicitation)
6. Invite for meeting only needed for discussion stakeholders
7. Generate ideas that could bring business value for the project. Get the ball rolling
8. Use BA tools that all stakeholders can use easily
Explain the client advantages of elicitation process and advantages of active participation of all stakeholders in it. All in the same boat.
So , why well organized elicitation process so important?
Let`s try to see the project future.
What does your client expect?
Quality system inside expected time and budget, that meets his idea.
What is the role of BA in the process of product development?
Prepare quality requirements that cover all aspects of the project.
So, how the requirement elicitation process influences on success
of the project?
• Eliciting requirements process first of all helps both client and development team to see what our project is and define vectors of development.
• Understand many aspects inside general ideas.
• See perspectives.
• Predict possible mistakes on early stage
• Save time for development
• Save time for testing, redesign
• Define right choice of software architecture
Project done inside
Create positive atmosphere inside stakeholder`s team.
Positive atmosphere is directly proportional to the speed of requirements gathering.
Sometimes elicitation process is hard or boring and stakeholders are trying to avoid the topic discussions by different reason.
There are a lot of words about the benefits of a Positive Team written. In our case the more positive environment the more likely stakeholders will participate actively in requirements` elicitation process and will not try to avoid it.
Do not overload stakeholders with questions, make meetings short but effective. Not so fast cowboy.
What you as business analyst meet at the early stage of the project?
Client name and project input data, correct? Possible clients
1. Only project owner (one stakeholder)
2. Small company (few stakeholders)
3. Big corporation (many stakeholders)
1. Project description (documentation)
2. Idea to implement, several draft concepts and future vision of project development
3. Idea to implement
Let’s assume that our client is a small abroad company which goal is to launch its own startup and what you, as business analyst, have is only general project idea and some drafts of the project. And of course your first desire is to get much more information from stakeholders about the project. But not so fast cowboy… Making good first impression is a very important thing, so please be prepared for it. Investigate project domain, study input data, try to find more information about company and owners. Focus first on business idea of the project rather than on the future detailed functionality. Prepare list of few general questions and so on. Get off to a good start. Be well prepared for each meeting.
First date (meeting)
Do not be too passionate on the first date! You know, that despite the fact that many clients heard about requirements they never worked with them. Not speaking about BA tools. So not overload your client with information especially at the beginning. Ask client about:
• client`s main business
• how startup idea was appeared
• general business goals of new startup
• who will be participate the project (contact persons -stakeholders)
• ask to provide you stakeholders` contact information
• if possible, get some personal info about client’s hobby (may be you have common interests)
• ask to provide more documented data about the project if possible
• define date and time of the next meeting to discuss business requirements
• your role as business analyst in the project
• advantages of your future good cooperation
• previous your projects you participated in.
• highlight the importance of requirements
Remember that you together will build the project and turn ideas into reality. Try to listen more rather than to speak. Make sketchnotes, do not try to outline every client`s word (it may look strange). After the meeting Write meeting notes. Send email to client with copy to all participants with:
• many thanks for meeting
• info you promised to provide during first meeting.
• proposed date of next meeting with topic of discussion
Analyze all received information.
Prepare questions for the next meeting.
Second date (meeting)
During second meeting:
• Clarify some business requirements
• Provide access to requirements for stakeholders
• Provide excursion over BA tools where requirements will be stored
• Define time and date of future meetings
Do not try to clarify many questions at one time (do not bite off more than you can chew), remember that after meeting you will need to rethink all questions and answers, make meeting notes, prioritize and structure all of them.
Postpone more hard decisions in order to rethink them. Sleep on it
There is a big difference between postponed decision and wasting time.
Postponed decision will help you to involve stakeholders into elicitation process more deeply, rethink task, find right solution and reduce risk of moving in wrong direction.
Barking up the wrong tree costs a lot.
On my practice more than 50% of approved decisions were changed. One reason why stakeholders rethink previous one is that they get focused more on the task and have found the best solutions.
So, sometimes it is better to Back to the drawing board to get the best result.
Make the elicitation process interesting (use different approaches for requirement`s elicitation).
Use different techniques for elicitation requirements depending from stakeholders. In this article, we will not discuss methods of elicitations. There are a lot of articles about it, all of them are well described in BABoK (Business Analysis Book of Knowledge).
From my practice the most popular methods are:
• Document analysis (if such exists)
Invite for meeting only needed for discussion stakeholders.
Do not forget that stakeholders are people from different sides of the project. See example of stakeholder`s positions below (taken from BABoK).
As you see there are many stakeholders could exists in the project.
That is why invite right stakeholders for each meeting so important.
For example if you want to discuss business requirements it may sense to discuss it only with owners and SME.
With such approach you ensure your stakeholders that:
• you appreciate their time and do not bother them in vain
• invited to meeting or involved into discussion process stakeholders are really needed for the meeting
Discover and understand interests of each stakeholder in the project.
Generate ideas that could bring business value for the project. Get the ball rolling.
You could not always elicit (pull out) requirements from stakeholders.
What stakeholders, especially business owners, really expect from you, as from business analyst, is that you will generate ideas for their project to discuss and then select the best on to approve.
If you propose interesting ideas for project, stakeholders from client side will be glad to be involved into elicitation process for sure.
Use BA tools that all stakeholders can use easily
One of the most important questions to involve stakeholders into process of gathering requirements is to organize requirements such way that all stakeholders understand them and have fast access to them.
In other words if your requirements well organized there is more probability that stakeholders will have desire to work with them.
In our practice we use such professional popular BA tools as Jira(by Atlassian) and Confluence(by Atlassian), each potential requirement (story) has its number, link, provided with use cases or user stories and full set of mockups to visualize each scenario.
But more simple tools also acceptable especially for small and medium projects.
Discuss any topic providing mockups and diagrams, data sheets. One picture explains more than many words.
I hope these hints will help you in your BA work.
Thanks for reading till the end of the blog.