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The Dirty Harry Approach to Requirements, or “Are you Feeling Lucky, Punk?” Solve Problems First, Ask Questions Later - Part 2

In Part 1, we learned that the less precise things are, the easier it is to understand them. Thus the paradox: how do you get precise requirements and easy to understand requirements?

According to the requirements gods and goddesses, there are fundamentally three levels of requirements ( you can break these down into more but that is another blog):

1. Business Requirements- Why the project is being undertaken;
2. User Requirements- What users will be able to do with the product;
3. Software Requirements – What the developers need to build.


Take a look at the statements below:

  • Business Requirements are the easiest to understand, but the least precise;
  • User Requirements are more difficult to understand, however they are more precise than the Business Requirements;
  • Software Requirements are even more difficult to understand, yet they are the most precise.

The more perspectives you include, the more precise things get, and the less understandable things become. When we can no longer recognize where we are, we get lost and do not understand how we got there.

When we were kids, and our parents would drive us to the market to go grocery shopping, (sometimes three or more times a week since we would forget stuff) we learned how to get to the grocery store. For us, this was a good 15-20 miles away. However, after a period of time, we knew how to get there in at least two different ways: Dad’s way, and Mom’s way. Still later, we learned the way Grandpa and Grandma went to the store; now we know three ways.

One day Mom and I were on the way to the grocery store, and there was road construction. As we were waiting in the long line of backed up cars, I recognized the street Dad takes to the grocery store. I told Mom that we could get to the grocery store faster if we took Oak Street, and then State Street (I wanted my baseball cards, and my money was burning a hole in my pocket, like you would not believe). Mom looked over at me, very surprised, and said, “Good idea!” Off we went, thus now a 4th way to get to the grocery store. The key to solving our unexpected dilemma was that we had been to the store repeatedly, in different ways, opening up our options in a time of crisis.

As a good BA, we should facilitate the business and IT through each of the requirement levels by showing repeatedly how we arrived there through tractability.

Thus, developing a map on how to get from an easy understandable business requirements to user requirements, and ultimately to software requirements. People have a better chance of understanding with a map and if they do not, they should ask for a better map from the BA.

The BA acts like a tour guide (a facilitator, not a leader or manager) through the maze of requirement levels. The BA should be guiding the Business and IT team through the requirements collaboratively, and allow the groups to discover the map on their own through the process.

If you discover something through a process, you will understand it much deeper than if someone just told you.

Requirements elicitation is a gathering process, and a learning process.

If you do one without the other, you will play the “Do You Feel Lucky, Punk” Game in Part 1. So as you transition between each type of requirement, work through the transition collaboratively, in a facilitated process.


So, do you feel lucky?

This entry was published on Apr 02, 2008 / . Posted in Elicitation (BABOK KA), Requirements Analysis (BABOK KA), Business Analysis. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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