Knowing how to gather requirements is a skill that every analyst, and project manager, – should have. However, it seems to be a skill that is generally lacking in many organizations. Poor requirements gathering is a major cause of project problems in many organizations.
Gathering requirements is more than just asking a few questions and then proceeding to the next step in the lifecycle. We have a four-step process for gathering requirements that all projects should utilize to some degree. If your project is small, you will go through thee steps quickly. Larger projects may spend quite a lot of time working through the process.
Elicitation. The Elicitation step is where the requirements are first gathered. To elicit accurate requirements, the analyst must ask the right kind of questions and then listen carefully to the answers. There are a number of techniques for eliciting requirements and your project may need to use multiple techniques depending on the circumstances. This includes interviews, facilitated sessions, prototypes, questionnaires and more.
Validation. The Validation step is where the “analyzing” starts. The purpose of validation is to make certain that the information conveyed during elicitation accurately represents the needs and expectations of the clients and stakeholders. The work here includes consolidating requirements, rationalizing them, looking at overlaps and gaps and creating models to help visualize processes.
- Specification. During this step, the analyst prioritizes and formally documents the requirements in a Requirements Definition Report. The requirements are also numbered in a way that allows them to be tracked through the rest of the lifecycle. Finally, they are checked to make sure that they can ultimately be tested.
- Verification. The final step in the requirements gathering process is verifying that the documented requirements accurately and completely communicate the needs and expectations of the client. The requirements are reviewed and formally approved. During this step, the analyst can also develop acceptance criteria and start to write test cases for the final solution.
The truth is that all team members need to appreciate the value of good business requirements and should have some fundamental skills in gathering them. Gathering good requirements up-front saves time and money and improves the overall quality of your product.