Requirements Analysis (BABOK KA)

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Managers should do some soul-searching; do they really need that information or are they interfering with the responsibilities of others? My advice to managers is simple: Delegate responsibility, hold people accountable, and get out of their way.

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Simple requirements changes often have far-reaching impacts, necessitating that many parts of the product be modified. It’s hard to find all the system components that might be affected by a requirement modification. Assessing the impact of a proposed change is easier if you have a road map that shows where each requirement or business rule was implemented in the software.

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Many BAs wait until their requirements specification is complete before they present it to some reviewers. Busy developers, testers, project managers, and users have difficulty finding the time to scrutinize a large document on short notice. It’s far more effective to review an evolving document incrementally. Give reviewers just a few pages at a time, preferably soon after an elicitation activity.

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 It is wise to use whatever techniques we can to discover the 'real' requirements and business rules before embarking on development. We all seem to know that it is cheaper to fix problems earlier rather than later in an IT project. So why do so many of our projects exhibit the same mistakes?

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In my view, the most powerful quality practice available to the software industry today is inspection of requirements documentation. A peer review is an activity in which someone other than the author of a work product examines that product to find defects and improvement opportunities.

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Adaptability is a word that is not used enough in the context of business analysis and collecting requirements. Though it is used in the project world, “adaptability” is more synonymous with project methodology or project teams as a whole than it is with requirements elicitation or requirements management. Being adaptive to your surroundings is what can save you from the perils of uncertain environments, non-engaged subject matter experts or the dreaded “analysis paralysis” effect.

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There is no single correct way to document specific requirements information. Every BA needs a rich tool kit of techniques at her disposal so that she can choose the most effective requirements view in each situation. In this article I offer some ideas about how to make that choice.

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As we travelled around India we were initially amazed at how the traffic flowed. India is a populous country, of course, and they have an ever-increasing number of vehicles.  No matter what time of day it was, the traffic seemed heavy. So, how can their constant flow of traffic work?
 

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An effective business analyst doesn’t just “write requirements.” Instead, the BA should think about the most appropriate way to represent requirements-related information in a given situation. Besides the traditional default of writing natural language statements, the BA should determine when a picture or some other representation would be valuable.

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If you create only one view of the requirements, you must believe it. You have no other choice. If you develop multiple views, though, you can compare them to look for disconnects that reveal errors and different interpretations. There’s an old saying, variously attributed to the Swedish Army, the Swiss Army, the Norwegian Boy Scouts, a Scottish prayer, and a Scandinavian proverb: “When the map and the terrain disagree, believe the terrain.”

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Taking time to determine business requirements before launching into a new IT or process-based project is a critical component of good planning and protecting company assets. Clearly defining the current process, the problems that need to be focused on, and working with the people in the organization before beginning your project will allow for a much more streamlined process once you start, with better odds for success.

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Ron Ross and Gladys Lam have written an important book for the business analyst community. It aims to get business analysts out of the technology ghetto that many of us get stuck in. Regardless of the type of analyst you are, I think it would be worth your time to get your hands on and read this book. I’ll explain why below.

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There’s an old fable about six blind men who encountered an elephant for the first time. Although they couldn’t see it, they wanted to learn what an elephant was like. Each of them touched a different part of the elephant.

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There are several situations in which recording only high-level requirements information increases the project’s risk. When you encounter situations such as the ones described in this article, expect to spend more time than average developing detailed requirements specifications.

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Several conditions make it appropriate to leave the requirements descriptions at a higher level of abstraction. Recognize that these are broad guidelines. The BA should perform a risk-benefit analysis to balance the potential downside of omitting important information against the effort required to include it.

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