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What strategies can the BA and project team use to facilitate stakeholder sign-off on requirements?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 30237 Views // 4 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, General, Functional Specifications, Requirements Management and Communication (BABOK KA)


There are several steps that the BA and project team can take beyond just publishing requirements with a sign-off deadline, in order to ease the process for stakeholders and expedite approvals:

  • Make sure the right people are signing-off on requirements. It sounds simple and obvious, but this can be one of the biggest contributors to challenges in obtaining requirements sign-off, particularly on complex multi-stakeholder projects.
  • Help stakeholders understand the sign-off process. Provide a clear explanation of the commitment that stakeholders are making to the project by signing off on requirements. Be sure to communicate the process for identifying and managing subsequent changes after sign-off (which may be just a reminder of the project’s established change control procedures).
  • Help stakeholders interpret the requirements documentation. Where feasible and applicable, provide supporting or reference material to assist interpretation and understanding of the requirements. This may include glossaries and data dictionaries, diagrams, etc. It is also very helpful to maintain a log of all decisions that are made throughout requirements definition, and publish this decision log with the requirements to avoid revisiting past decisions.
  • Make sure stakeholders have enough time to review the requirements during sign-off. Plan ahead for review and sign-off cycles as much as possible. Remind stakeholders of this commitment 2-3 weeks prior to each review cycle, so they have enough advance notice to plan for the time needed.
  • Foster collaborative ownership on multi-stakeholder projects. If a single document contains requirements that are shared or jointly owned, individual stakeholders may be reluctant to sign-off on requirements that they do not individually own. Joint review sessions can be used for collaborative discussion with the goal of obtaining verbal approval from the group during the session. Stakeholder questions or concerns can be addressed through the group review, which will help expedite sign-off from each individual participant.

Sandy Lambert
Business Architect
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hemal posted on Sunday, December 8, 2013 9:12 PM
A follow-up reminder(s) may be required to be given to the stakeholders and it generally works better if the business analyst simply walks up to the stakeholder's desk (assuming both are co-located) to give a gentle reminder about the sign-off event. Sending out official reminder emails is a perceived escalation and may not be taken in the right spirit.
Sandy posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 9:52 AM
Good point, Hemtan - tone is definitely important. There are a variety of communications channels available to a BA (including an informal desk-side chat).

A BA's relationship with his/her stakeholders is also very important, as people will subconsciously interpret email tone based on the nature of their relationship with the sender. If a BA has a trusted, collaborative relationship with stakeholders then there is very low risk that a reminder email will be interpreted as escalation.

The key for me is to send the email out 1-2 weeks prior to the start of the review cycle. That way it is not a reminder to 'hurry up and review the documents', but instead a notice that we will be asking for stakeholder time in the next few weeks to review the documents. The tone of this type of email is much more friendly and collaborative.

Thanks for the feedback.
Vailaish posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 8:47 AM
I have observed that sharing a requirement document well in advance with the business users does not necessarily mean that you will attain the sign-off before or on the due date. On a bad day, walking to the business user in person or sending an email reminder can also prove to be of little help.

In this situation, when you are tolling hard to get that 'Go signature' a special course of action is sometimes required.

In an assignment, I was facing the same problem when there were 5 stakeholders to provide the sign-off. None of them was comfortable in taking the step as they wanted others to proceed first. This might be due to lack of confidence in the requirements they have provided or fear of being blamed by the management later.

Realizing the sentiments, I fixed a time with the users and arranged a meeting. I opened the document and presented it, explaining each requirement and proposed solution while taking their feedback. I ensured that I accommodate this input it in the document then and there in my interest with minimum possible raise in effort.

This ceremony went on for around half a day for a 60 pager but we successfully completed the document. Eventually, on the same day I could see 'Approved' written in blue link in five different handwritings on the hardcopy of document :)

The point which I want to put on the table is sometimes it's not just about having user's time to get a sign-off but to be in their shoes to understand the position and other political reasons for a procrastination.
Stewart F posted on Friday, June 7, 2019 2:45 AM
Vailaish is absolutely right.

In my experience, this approach is needed more often than not. The ability to hand hold a Stakeholder through the requirements (whether it be a document or a set of features on-line) is key to getting the Requirements stage over the line.

My tip would be - Be patient. Find out why they are reluctant. Is it just that they are too busy (if it is, ask if someone else can sign off on their behalf)? Is it, as with Vailaish, that they are waiting for others (in which case do exactly as Vailaish did)? Or is it something else? Ask the question "What is stopping you from signing off the requirements?", offer help by walking them through the requirements, and at the end of that Hand Holding session - get them to sign. Don't let them out of the room until they do.
Stewart F
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