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A Killer App for Business Analysts & Product Managers: Audio Recording Pens

What is a killer app? It’s not lethal! Generally, a killer app is an enhanced version of an existing technology that makes the technology much more usable, and thereby exponentially more valuable. A new killer app has arrived for business analysts: audio recording pens. Audio recording devices have existed for a long time, but they needed additional functionality to be truly essential for business analysts.

The key added features are:

  • Coordinating writing with audio
  • Easy-to-email recordings
  • Making recording inconspicuous

It is this combination of features that makes the pen helpful in every meeting. It should be noted that some computer software programs also coordinate audio recording with typing; that is not as useful, however, because in my experience you hear loud keyboard banging over soft voices in the background. You could get an external microphone, but then you lose the inconspicuous recording advantage of the pen. If every stakeholder remembers they’re being recorded the way an external mic triggers recall, they will not be as forthcoming with where the real problems with the system are, and will censor their speech.

Because the audio correlates with your writing, you can easily jump between topics when listening to the audio. This allows you to create your requirements models directly from the meeting audio. I don’t care how fast you can type, you are not going to get every word spoken, and you will also miss any cross-talk coming from multiple people simultaneously. With the pen, you capture it all. Suddenly, your requirements become word-for-word representations of what the users said, using all the proper terminology and lingo.

Using the pen creates a higher-quality final product: you don’t miss a word ever spoken by a stakeholder, you don’t miss key points through inaccurate paraphrasing, you can always go back to the audio to review your requirements, and you can always hear where key decisions were made. Also, at the end of the project, you will have a permanent record of every meeting, referenced by topic and stakeholder, which allows you to have almost perfect recall of all the discussions throughout the project.

Is the price of the pen worth it? It pays for itself the first time you use it. It allows you to bring fewer people to each meeting, since some participants can just listen to the audio later and jump to listen to only the parts that are important to them. If you bring somebody new on-board in the middle of a project, how valuable would it be to let them hear the project objectives straight from the key stakeholder’s mouth? The more you use the pen, the more time-saving uses you’ll find for the audio.

Still not convinced that recording your meetings and referencing them by topic isn’t valuable? It doesn’t matter, you should record them anyway. Since there is no cost to recording a meeting (once you’ve bought the pen), and it only takes 5 seconds to start the recording, you may as well record them all. There is always an off-chance that you will need something at a later date. In my experience, many items once thought out-of-scope come back in scope, and therefore require you to go back and hear the discussions around those items.

All-in-all, the pen contributes to making us seem super-human, with a perfect record of the past always at our beck and call. Using it as an extension of our fallible memory and our fallible note taking will increase our capabilities as business analysts and take our work to the next level.

2 Responses to A Killer App for Business Analysts & Product Managers: Audio Recording Pens

  1. Alex November 17, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    I agree that it’s a very useful tool, but beware early adopters like myself, they are still very buggy! Lost a few important recordings due to corruption..!

  2. Richard Smith November 27, 2012 at 6:39 am #

    This sounds like a very good idea (the comment about early adopters accepted). But where do I get one? I couldn’t see any mention of this in the article above.

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