2 Methods for Eliciting Business Requirements

Why is Eliciting Business Requirements is Important?

In this post I am going to tell you about 2 essential methods for eliciting business requirements to ensure good coverage for your project.

Why is this important? Because business requirements are the defining statements for the goals, objectives, or needs of the enterprise.

They describe why a project is initiated, the things that the project will achieve, and the metrics which will be used to measure its success (adapted from BABOK version 2.0).

Well defined business requirements help you avoid expensive mistakes. Without them, your project will be like a ship without a rudder. It can’t get any more important than this.

So here is what you do.

Start at the very beginning, review all high level documentation available, and plan out your meetings and workshops.

Discover a Wealth of Hidden Business Requirements in Documented Sources

Examples of documented sources are strategic plans, policies, and legislation… any document that defines the overarching and guiding principles for the business.

Other examples are mission statements, contracts, and funding deeds.

Review these documents. Look for any statements, mandates or policies that will impact on the project. These statements can be translated into business requirements and validated with the project stakeholders to ensure they are current and relevant.

If you don’t perform this task, something important may be missed causing processes and systems to be incorrectly developed… requiring considerable resources, expense and time to correct at a later date.

For example, a funding deed to carry out a new program of work states that a longitudinal database is to be maintained for the purpose of evaluating the success of the program over time. This requirement may literally be one sentence in a 20-page agreement. It could be easily overlooked during analysis and, if missed, have a major impact on the ability for the business to meet their objectives.

Learn How the Business Really Works through Meetings and Workshops

Engaging stakeholders is where the Business Analyst really learns the key details for developing the Business Requirements, and confirms information gathered from reviewing documented sources.

Below are some questions that could be asked to uncover business requirements, with example answers using a Human Resources context.

What is the main function of the business area? e.g., The main function of the business area is to oversee the Department’s human resources and ensure that employee related information and policies are appropriately managed to support ongoing operations of the organisation.

What is done in the business area? e.g., The operational team coordinates the processing of employee related applications and forms by Employees to be approved by managers and, in some cases, entered into the system by Payroll staff (e.g., leave applications, personnel details, position details, employment contracts).

Who is involved (both internal and external)? e.g., Employees, business managers, HR staff, and Payroll staff.

What information is required and/or produced? e.g., Depending on the application being submitted, employees use a predefined Word template to fill out information. Each form has it own set of prerequisite criterion, which is verified by HR staff and then entered into the HRMS after the appropriate approval (approvals are all paper based).

What systems (and dependencies) currently support the business activities? e.g., The HRMS is the main HR system that supports the management of employee related information. An EDRMS stores electronic copies of forms and a hard copy is also stored on the personnel file.

What are the main issues and risks currently affecting the business to achieve their required outcomes? e.g., The processing of forms is intensively manual, and in some cases overly complicated, consuming many hours of HR staff chasing a paper trail. Processing times are high promoting the risk to business in lost time spent on non-value adding activities. Error rates are high promoting risk of poor integrity of data for auditing and reporting purposes.

As a result, the following business requirements could be written… The business requires the ability to:

  • Manage the Department’s critical human resources knowledge and information in line with strategic directions and priorities.
  • Ensure the efficient delivery of service to the Department’s employees through the automation of HR business processes.
  • Provide accurate and timely reporting to leverage corporate data for operational and business decisions.

I have described two absolutely essential business analysis techniques to elicit business requirements. Do these things to support the business in fulfilling their clearly defined objectives.

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