Business Analysis Kitchen: recipes for perfect requirements

B

A few weeks ago, I came across a post from Adrian M. on ModernAnalyst.com describing an interesting solution to a common BA problem: when do you know that you captured all requirements?

In a nutshell, his technique, aka the Popcorn Way (kudos for the name!), states that you should end requirements gathering activities when the time between requirements discoveries reaches a specific threshold. While I agree that it’s a good technique to prevent analysis paralysis, I don’t think it’s enough to ensure that you captured all requirements. In many situations, your stakeholders might not even know they have other requirements; you just can’t sit and wait for some pop to happen (or not) to decide that there are no more requirements.

Therefore, what can a BA do to determine whether he captured all requirements? In order to do so, I think we need another culinary technique: slow cooking!

Slow cooking is the way to go!

Slow cooking is a good way to prepare excellent food (spaghetti sauce, someone?). Let’s take a look at how it works:

  1. Get the ingredients and cut/peel/crush/mix them together.
  2. Put everything in a slow cooker, and set the timer (usually between 4 and 8 hours).
  3. As cooking goes on, ingredients will interact together and good flavors will (hopefully) invade your house.
  4. From time to time, you will take a look at the slow cooker to smell/taste your chef-d’oeuvre, and ajust seasoning if needed.
  5. Once your cooking time comes to an end, you have a perfectly cooked recipe that the whole family can enjoy (like this beautiful breakfast featured above).

Now that you’re hungry (either for food or for knowledge, or both), let’s see how it can translate to how we work as BAs:

  1. Perform your initial requirements gathering activities. This will allow you to get a good baseline to start with. You can use the Popcorn way for this step 🙂 .
  2. Once you have your requirements baseline, you can start implementation; as time goes on, you will see a nice solution emerging from that, so will your stakeholders.
  3. As a good BA, you will check the solution from time to time, and ensure that it’s still in line with your stakeholders needs. As they see the solution taking shape, your stakeholders will probably/surely have other requirements; since you’re still involved in the process, you will capture them and see if they can fit in the current solution, or if they need to be addressed in another recipe project.
  4. Once the solution is implemented, it will either include all these requirements (the baseline + the ones captured during cooking time), or be featured in the next meal delivery, to your stakeholders satisfaction.

Combining both techniques for better requirements

The Popcorn Way is a good technique to cover requirements elicitation, as defined in the BABoK. On the other end, the Slow Cooking method is required to ensure good requirements management and BA planning & monitoring. Getting one or the other right is not enough; you actually need both to capture all requirements.

By combining both, you might not get an interesting dish (at least, it’s my idea of popcorn made in a slow cooker). However, you’ll be sure to capture every requirement to meet your customers’ needs, no matter when they arise in the implementation process.

Feel free to share other culinary techniques to manage requirements in the comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe to EricTheBusinessAnalyst.com to get new BA recipes 🙂

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Update (2015-02-06): in a discussion about this post on the IIBA LinkedIn group, Irene added an interesting twist to this analogy. Like cooking, Business Analysis requires specific skills; and like cooking, following a specific recipe can lead to a lot of different outcomes. So be sure to get those skills before trying my recipe 🙂

Image credits: theswedish @ FreeImages.com

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Eric Provost

Making sense out of chaos as a BA & UX specialist

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