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New Post 10/7/2009 1:37 AM
User is offline nettle
1 posts
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List of questions while requirements elicitation 

Hi,


I’m the most experienced business analyst in my company.
My boss asked me to write a predefined list of questions which will be used by my younger colleagues when they meet the client.
On that list I should collect all questions necessary to ask while interviewing the client. The questions should be divided on categoriessuch as:
a) Changes in GUI
b) Changes in Systems Integration
c) Changes in business logic
Could you tell me if you have ever seen such a list? Is it possible to define it? What do you think?

Regards,
Nettle

 
New Post 10/7/2009 2:17 AM
User is offline Adrian M.
762 posts
3rd Level Poster




Re: List of questions while requirements elicitation 

Hi Nettle,

Wow - that's a tall order!

My gut feeling tells me you can't create such a list - at least, I have never seen or heard of one.  If life was only that simple - everybody would become a business analyst.

Having said that, it is possible to create checklists of various types which a more junior analyst could use to ensure they cover with the client key areas.  However - the danger of checklists (especially for jr. BAs) is that it gives the business analyst a false sense of security aka they think that if they asked all the questions on the list they should be fine.  But that is not the case!

In some ways, business analysis is not unlike driving.  One can have a goal in mind (e.g. get to a given address by 5 pm to meet a blind date) and arm themselves with a Google maps directions yet still miss the goal. How come?  Because a map is just a guide which cannot always be followed exactly - unexpected things can "come up".

Here's what could happen while driving:

  • On a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, a route which Google says it should only take 30 minutes might take 3 hours,
  • Google says "turn left on Maple street" yet when you get there Maple street is closed because of a water main break,
  • When you get to Wilshire Blvd., sections are closed due to protests in front of the Federal building,
  • A brush fire on the side of the 405 freeway has caused the closure of the entire freeway.

Same goes with business analysis!  The client could make a request which is not on the checklist - what does the Jr. BA do in that case?  They should "think/analyze/evaluate aka analyze!

Checklists and list of questions can be helpful to recall data but they cannot do the thinking for your.

Again, checklists could be useful, for example if the client says "I need a report which does ..." having a checklist to remember key things to ask about a report would be great (header, footer, font size, font style, how often, delivery method, logos, calculated fields, source of data, etc.)

Three of my favorite questions are: "Why?", "Why?", "Why?".

BTW: if you must develop a list of questions make sure they focus on requirements (what does the business want to accomplish and why).  Your sample categories seem to be design centric.  If the business tells the junior business analyst that they want the "submit" button to be red and the BA documents just that, then you might be missing some critical need since doing exactly what the client asks might not solve their problem.

Unless you already know that the CEO really, really loves red buttons then you should be asking "Why?" a number of times.

Example:

  • BA: Why should the submit button be red? 
  • Client: Because we really want the user to press it?
  • BA: Why do you think that the user will press it if it's red?
  • Client: Because it will stand out on the page?
  • BA: What if the user is color blind?
  • Client: Hmm... I didn't think of that!  Let's just make the text bold?
  • BA: (thinking: we are getting nowhere) Why is it so important that the user clicks the submit button?
  • Client: Because currently it does important things and some users don't click it.
  • BA: What is so important?
  • Client: (getting annoyed, of course): Because it has logic which submits the new lead to the marketing department which provides us lots of value.  Many users click the cancel button by mistake.
  • BA: (a-ha) So the problem is that when the user clicks the cancel button my mistake they lose their data right away and they probably don't want to re-enter all the info.
  • Client: Exactly!  Now can we just make the button bold!
  • BA: What if we put a message box when clicking the "Cancel" button which asks the user something like "Are you sure you want to cancel and lose all the data you just entered?"
  • Client: Wow... that would be great!

I realize I'm rambling on but you get the point aka I'm not sure what type of list of questions could have been developed to help a junior BA have even such a simple conversation without doing some thinking on their own.

Hope this helps!

- Adrian


Adrian Marchis
Business Analyst Community Blog - Post your thoughts!
 
New Post 10/7/2009 2:27 AM
User is offline Guy Beauchamp
257 posts
www.smart-ba.com
5th Level Poster




Re: List of questions while requirements elicitation 

Hi Nettle,

here is a list I use that lists questions and the analysis components that could be used to answer them. Email me at [email protected] if you want this in excel format.

Hope it helps!

Guy

 

question answer
what factors caused this project to come in to being? Driver analysis
how will you know the project has been sucessful? smart Objectives
how big is the solution? scope
what applications and technologies will the solution impact scope
what data will be migrated? scope
where will it be able to do it? scope
where will the solution impact? scope
who is impacted by the solution? scope
What changes will the project make that will deliver the objectives?  high level functional requirements
what processes does the solution cover? scope & high level functional requirements
what will the solution be able to do? high level functional requirements
what is the process sequence of the solution? process models
who is involved with each process process models & process non-functional
what are the rules that each process executes? process logic
what data does each process need to be able to execute? process logic
how fast will each process be? process non-functional
how many transactions must each be able to perform? process non-functional
where will each process be used? process non-functional
who is allowed to use each process? process non-functional
how are all the different sets of data related to each other? data model
what needs to be known about each set of data? data attributes
how long will data be kept? data non-functional
how much data will be kept? data non-functional
who can access what data? data non-functional
how big is the project? project scope
what applications and technologies will the project need? project scope
who needs to be involved in the project? project scope
how long has the project got/money? project constraint
 
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