Elicitation (BABOK KA)

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If I said Mentalist to you, I expect you would either think of a mind-reader of the David Copperfield ilk or the TV series of that name. In fact you would probably take it as an insult as neither of these images is particularly comfortable, but both would have a voyeuristic attraction.

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 (aka requirements gathering).

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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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Widely-accepted conventional requirements models continue to create creep—changes to settled requirements which are a major cause of project overruns. Business Analysts and others will continue to encounter such creep so long as they follow flawed models focusing on requirements of a product or system being created without adequately also discovering the REAL, business requirements the product must satisfy to provide value.

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With business analysis projects, as with all endeavors, you have to know where you are going before you can chart your course to get there. In other words, before you can decide whether to take a train, bus, or plane, what time of day you will travel, and what you will carry, you have to decide where you are going.

So it is with requirements. Before you can chart how you are going to implement a solution, everyone involved in the development effort must agree on why you need it to start with and that it is the very best solution available. Business requirements are fundamental to any development effort because they define where you are going by articulating the business problem and its solution—why it is needed and how to measure its success.

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The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® 2.0) is the definitive guide to the profession of business analysis. Every business analyst can profit from it, and few analysts can afford to be without it.

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The purpose of this article is to assist the business analyst engaged in the elicitation of stakeholder requirements. The key to any successful elicitation is asking the right questions whether it be in interviews or a facilitation session. Although the right questions are dependent on the solution scope, there are generic questions that the business analyst can use to start the elicitation regardless of the solution scope. The author begins the article using a mind map to capture keywords of generic questions and then provides a list of generic questions drawn from that map of which specific solution scope questions can be added by the business analyst.

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Given the economic downturn, "cheaper, better, faster" seems to be a universal mantra in business. To stay competitive, organizations must continually strive to be more agile and develop higher-quality solutions more quickly-despite obstacles such as geographically distributed teams, limited budgets and resources, quick delivery times, language barriers and government regulations. These challenges require teams to consider new ways of doing business so they can be more responsive to frequent business changes.

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