Elicitation (BABOK KA)

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For several decades, software reuse has been a recognized solution to improving efficiency of software development. However, implementing reuse in practice remains challenging and the IT community has little visibility into the state of the practice specifically as it pertains to reusing software requirements. This paper presents the results of a survey conducted in the global IT industry in 2010 and discusses the state of the practice for software requirements reuse.

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We have always been fascinated by the exceptional business analysts who can create order out of total chaos. The ones who can ask those great questions, who can figure out what’s important and what’s less so, who can synthesize lots of information, put it all into their magic hat and come out with requirements that make sense to all the stakeholders.

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Recently I was chatting at a wine tasting event with a couple of lawyers, who I had just met. One was surprisingly inquisitive about my work in the software requirements arena. Apparently she was working on case involving software at that very time. At one point she asked me, “How do you know how detailed to make the requirements?”

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Facilitation is one of the most critical soft skills of the business analyst, as well as one of the most difficult to master. Working with various stakeholders requires tremendous preparation, insight and finesse in addition to an understanding of key principles of the facilitation process.

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I often get asked, “How can I get stakeholders to attend my meetings?” or “How can I get stakeholders’ buy-in on the project?” These are complex questions and the easy answer is that you can’t. As BAs and PMs we can’t get anyone to do anything, but we can certainly influence them so that they want to.

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The reason I bring this up is that there has always been a fascination with trying to guess what is going on the minds of the people in front of you. This is particularly apt when you are trying to understand what the in-duh-vidual in front of you really wants.

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Over the years I have noticed that we, as Americans, seem to possess a knack for attacking the wrong problems which I refer to as the “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” phenomenon. I see this not only in the corporate world, but in our private lives as well. Instead of addressing the correct problems, we tend to attack symptoms.

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Once while teaching a business analysis elicitation course, a student in the class asked me, “Have you ever had a wasted interview with a stakeholder?” The question took me back, a surprise; a question I had not been asked before.

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Thousands of business analysts have turned to software visualization from as a strategy to simplify their jobs and cut through the confusion. With iRise, business analysts are empowered to quickly assemble a high-fidelity working preview of an application before development ever begins. These visualizations look and act just like the final product, creating an accurate visual model for what to build.

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 Adult children. Jumbo shrimp. Seriously funny. I’m sure you recognize these expressions as oxymorons—self-contradictory phrases, often with an ironic meaning.  Should we add “agile requirements” to the list? Does agile development fit in with traditional requirements practices? And if so, how?
 

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A thorough discovery of business requirements is almost never readily available at an analyst’s fingertips—rarely can requirements be quickly looked up as one would gather information for a term paper or study for a test. Much of business or technical requirements is not documented anywhere—it resides in the minds of stakeholders, in feedback that has yet to be obtained from end users, and from a study of flowcharts and surveys that have yet to be created. And so requirements must be elicited, or drawn out, and the methodology in doing so must be logical and meticulous... The purpose of requirements elicitation, therefore, is to thoroughly identify the business needs, risks, and assumptions associated with any given project.

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As stakeholders play decisive role towards solution delivery, it would be helpful for business analysts and project managers to have a stakeholder strategy. Stakeholder strategy can help facilitate communication between stakeholders and IT teams. Stakeholder strategy allows project members to consider stakeholder availability and associated risks early in the project lifecycle.

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 You remember the game of telephone, right? The test of communication skills where one person whispers a message to his neighbor, and that message is translated multiple times from person to person until eventually, the last contestant repeats her interpreted message aloud. The goal is for the final person in the chain to correctly hear the original message, but invariably, there is laughter all around as the message is misconstrued.

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This article promotes a new approach to requirements management that reduces project complexity and improves communication between business and IT. This new approach can be used on its own, or as a supplement or precursor to existing approaches. Critical features of the approach are: detachment of business requirements from individual projects; and the production of testable requirements that can be shown to be complete, consistent, and correct prior to use within the SDLC.
 

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Smooth stakeholder participation is integral to the success of any project. Sometimes stakeholders hold information that is essential to thorough requirements discovery, so it is important that they be forthcoming. Other stakeholders must sign off on requirements as being final in order for a project to move forward, so it is important that they be decisive and willing to let go the discovery stage of a project.

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