Virtual Requirements Gathering, Nicole Stevenson, MSS Management Consultant, August 2020
Look at us! We are being bold and brave. We are turning on the video option on our conference calls and are finally trusting that mobile banking app to deposit checks! As we continue to adapt to a virtual world, it is essential to be persistent in creating meaningful interactions with our newly remote customers and teams and to continue the business of conducting business. It is equally essential to continue pre-pandemic requirements gathering efforts and ask; “How has living in a virtual world impacted my current business needs?”
In the recent article, Business Requirements Gathering and How to Get it Right, we walked through the Requirements Gathering Framework and stressed the importance of having a comprehensive requirements gathering and governance process. We learned:
- requirements live on beyond analysis and throughout the project life cycle.
- they require oversight to be managed and maintained.
- they represent your top business needs and core values and must now include the impacts of living in a virtual world.
Support Virtual Requirements Gathering
The process of gathering requirements itself does not change, but the procedures used are significantly impacted due to the current virtual nature of organizations. Virtual collaboration will be critical to successfully completing your requirements gathering process. Understanding and leveraging the features, and functions in your organization’s collaboration tool set is essential to enable this virtual collaboration. Leaders that learn how to make space for teams and individuals to contribute and interact in new ways can support more deliberate and meaningful interactions, regardless of our ‘virtual’ reality.
Embrace Virtual Collaboration Tools
Learning to adapt to new tools can be a second priority when old habits and tools can get us there eventually. Here is where leadership with clear vision and oversight can dial-up remote collaboration and maintain an effective Requirements Gathering Process. It is important to be intentional about your use of virtual collaboration tools, so the team becomes more comfortable with this method of sharing ideas.
Just as you should not rely on a single elicitation technique, you should not limit yourself to one collaboration tool. Rather, a combination of techniques and tools allows your virtual team to show up and engage in a variety of ways.
Planned elicitation meetings online can bring the team together to brainstorm ideas at the same time in the same document doing what is called co-authoring or real-time collaboration. After brainstorming, review all ideas using the Keep, Kill or Combine process to narrow down a large list. Use this to determine which requirements are keepers, which can be let go and which are redundant and therefore need to be combined.
Use chat channels to discuss a specific topic and share it with your team for informal communication that can provide quick responses and help replicate the ‘hallway meetings’.
Video conference calls is a favorite go-to for both group calls and 1:1 discussion. They are ideal for meetings with senior management for unstructured interviews where open-ended questions prompt broad scope discussions. It is also very helpful to record these calls for future reference.
Focus groups or workshops are still core to elicitation for teams to bounce ideas and fact check each other. With a seasoned facilitator, you can incorporate sharing your screen to review and model requirements using common collaboration tool features like white boarding, surveys, or instant polls.
There are hundreds of collaboration tools out there and more coming into the market every day. Face-to-face communication is still ideal, but in this virtual world, where the stakes are high, we must innovate!
As we are in a virtual world, be bold and brave in exploring and executing requirements gathering activities
with all the available collaboration tools so you can successfully achieve your goals.
Coordinate with Team Members
In the Analyze phase, your diagrams and models from the Elicit phase are now deconstructed into lists of specific, more granular requirements. You do not have to wait for the email hand-off of a document. Take advantage of cloud file sharing by saving your documents where your team can collaboratively develop the document simultaneously. Insert comments and use chat conversations that live with the shared document so everyone can work collaboratively without collisions.
Yes, it takes a bit of a personal leap to engage and invite others to jointly develop your masterpiece before it is complete, but true collaboration can help organize, prioritize, and verify requirements quickly.
Share with Stakeholders
The Validate phase pulls all your work into a formal Business Requirements Document for sign-off and commences the translation into systems requirements, when preparing to implement the chosen solution. If you are following the Requirement Gathering Framework, it will be the third time stakeholders are asked to review the requirements and the only time asking for a sign-off. Record your sessions to help capture complex technical details to review for reference later.
The challenge is ensuring senior leadership reads and understands the requirements. Ultimately, this document is not for Business Analysts, it is for stakeholders. InfoTech Research Group suggests considering creating multiple versions of the requirements package, where length and level of technical details is tailored to the audience. Consider creating a PowerPoint presentation for screen sharing with senior management for obtaining final sign-off.
Lean on Requirements Governance
Validation is your final opportunity to ensure you understand the impact of the current virtual world on your business requirements, and this impact is captured in your requirements.
Put the organization behind the requirement gathering process. Lean on established requirements governance during this time. This structure is critical to ensure your business analysts have support in their new remote environment. More than ever, requirements management should not be done in isolation. Have your collection methods changed? Are your organizational key metrics still applicable? Are those requirement changes being linked back to the business with proper change control?
An established governance can help educate and communicate to the organization about any policy changes. And it provides the quality checks to ensure all on-deck and in-flight projects are performing the necessary requirement re-assessments to support a newly virtual task force.
It is a known statistic that 70% of projects fail due to poor requirements. Requirement gathering is complex and ever evolving. According to Info-Tech Research Group, “It can be difficult to create an accurate picture of what your business wants and needs from its IT projects.” Do not get stuck in the past. As we are in a virtual world, be bold and brave in exploring and executing this activity with all the available collaboration tools so you can successfully achieve your goals.
Contact MSS Business Transformation Advisory to assess and validate your business and technical requirements and to streamline IT and business operations. Advisory@mssbta.com or 602-387-2100
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