Elicitation (BABOK KA)

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Customer journey mapping is a great way to understand your customer intimately to provide insights into providing targeted customer experience that empower the customer positively to drive better business outcomes.  This technique places the customer first with a deep emotional understanding, then looks backwards toward the experiences provided by the operating model, thus enabling good aspects to be reinforced and negative ones to be managed. It provides a complete 360 end to end experience of the customer to be realized driving customer insights, allowing more blue sky approaches to offsetting emotional deficits...

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This is a story of an outsourced product implementation contract between two companies, FinCo and ProdCo. What started out as an exciting contract turned out to be a bitter experience for both the companies. There are lessons to be learnt from this story – about outsourced contracts, about setting expectations and above all, about good old business requirements.
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The scenario is simple: You’ve been tasked to determine the requirements for a new project. You’ve done your homework by reviewing existing documentation. And, now, you’ve arranged to have a meeting with a Subject Matter Expert (SME).

So, where does one begin on this path to enlightenment? When you talk to the SME for the first time, do you start by outlining everything that you think you’ve learned already?

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The first step to solve a problem is to frame it correctly. These aren’t the right questions to ask. The real question these BAs should be asking is, “how do I get my stakeholders to stay involved throughout the requirements process, so I can have their input at the right times during requirements discovery, analysis, and validation?”
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This is the eleventh in a series that explains the thinking behind the Volere requirements techniques— previous and future articles explore aspects of applying these techniques in your environment.

This article focuses on the often-asked question: why, when I ask for requirements, do people give me solutions and what can I do to get the real requirement?
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Solution Anthropology encompasses the work of anyone who works directly with the end users so the work is coordinated and consistent. Therefore Solution Anthropology is not one role, but a team of people with the responsibility to delight the end user and a broad skill set to accomplish just that.
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Observation as a tool is used to understand people and their environments. It is a tool best used not in situations where we are verifying fairly well-understood information, but rather in situations where we do not really know what we are looking for. Observation is not about validating assumptions, but rather is a tool to find out what we don’t know that we don’t know. Observation should bring out the surprising and the unexpected. Of course observation has a purpose. But the purpose can be fairly broad.
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People sometimes say that requirements are about “what” and design is about “how.” There are two problems with this simplistic demarcation.  This makes it sound as though there’s a sharp boundary between requirements and design. There’s not. In reality, the distinction between requirements and design is a fuzzy gray area, not a crisp black line. I prefer to say that requirements should emphasize “what” and design should emphasize “how.” 

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Maybe it’s time to get back to the basics behind requirements and why we need them. In this 3-piece article series, we are getting back to the basics of requirements. Our first installment addresses how to ask the right questions.

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No matter how thorough a job you do on requirements elicitation, there is no way to be certain that you have found them all. No little green light comes on to announce “You’re done!” You should always plan on new requirements trickling in throughout the project. However, an excessive rate of change of requirements suggests that important requirements were overlooked during elicitation.

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Prior to the creation of something as potentially complex and ubiquitous of a website, an analyst must create a thorough, precise set of requirements in consultation with the right subject matter experts and business stakeholders. But unless one is armed with the proper planning procedures and techniques, the prospect of creating requirements for something as vast as an online business presence or functioning e-commerce system (or both) can be intimidating.

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There are a myriad of requirements elicitation methods. The BABOK lists nine (Brainstorming, Document Analysis, Focus Groups, Interface Analysis, Interviews, Observation, Prototyping, Requirements Workshops, Survey/Questionnaire), but there are many more methods out there such as protocol analysis , job application design , and so on).

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Interaction skills are a soft skill set that includes tactful communication, mediation, and diplomacy. BABOK divides interaction skills into three broad areas: facilitation and negotiation, leadership and influencing, and teamwork. All of these skills encompass the ability to navigate politics, even in tricky territory, in order to bring people together in consensus on a project, to mitigate conflicts, and to help people feel heard.

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In an ideal world, a single, full-time, expert user would indeed be sitting within view—“on sight”—of developers, ready at a moment’s notice to speak definitively for the entire user community. In reality, this is unlikely in most situations.

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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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