Requirements Analysis (BABOK KA)

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In a new business analyst role, typically there will be a few types of requirements documents that are most commonly created...  In this article, I’ll go through 7 steps you can take to write better requirements documentation or learn how to write a new type of requirements document.

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As Business Analysts, we are involved in requirements development and management day in and day out with most of the time spent on eliciting, analyzing and specifying business and software requirements for multiple projects. We follow or adopt multiple frameworks, approaches and tools that help us to successfully gather and analyze requirements. Having done all these things to ensure the success of the projects, we still end up in a few projects wherein we have “missed” few requirements.

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The CEO of a major corporation who was present when I described requirements traceability at a seminar asked, “Why wouldn’t you create a requirements traceability matrix for your strategic business systems?” That’s an excellent question. He clearly saw the value of having that kind of data available to the organization for each of its applications. If you agree with this executive's viewpoint, you might be wondering how to incorporate requirements traceability into your systems development activities in an effective and efficient way.

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At long last, Business Analysts are stepping into the spotlight...  Most BAs, however, still rely on documents and spreadsheets to manually stitch together their requirements. For those BAs, this article points out five ways that documents and spreadsheets are hurting your career and preventing you from joining the growing number of BAs who are fully equipped for the future of the profession…
 

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Multiple stages of a project can benefit from brainstorming, from identifying your stakeholders, to eliciting requirements, to enterprise analysis. In UML for the IT Business Analyst, Howard Podeswa describes brainstorming as useful “during the Initiation phase and whenever the project is ‘stuck’”.

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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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