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A Project for Mom

Have you ever noticed that the skills you have as a product manager or as a business analyst can transfer to other aspects of your life? I find myself in that exact situation, and having the skills to elicit requirements is proving to be very useful!

My mother recently experienced a life changing event, one where we need to move her closer to family. She is currently several states away with no family nearby, so the time has come for her to relocate closer to one of her children, and I’m the lucky one! As we start to think about what Mom’s needs are, it quickly turned into a requirements elicitation session. While these are not requirements to build a software application, they are requirements nonetheless.

I started my discussion with Mom by asking her to describe her ideal living space…how many bedrooms, what the kitchen would include, what sort of amenities she would want, etc. Here is the list that she gave me:

  • Retirement community
  • 2 Bedroom apartment
  • Full kitchen
  • Laundry facilities
  • Transportation to doctor’s appointments and grocery stores
  • Newer complex
  • Social activities

So I’ve got my first list, but of course, many of these requirements are bit vague. So I started to ask probing questions, trying to get more information about what Mom really wanted. For example, let’s take the requirement of a full kitchen. What does that really mean? Mom stated that she wants a refrigerator, stove, oven, plenty of cabinet space and of course a sink. What about a microwave oven and/or a dishwasher? When I asked about these items, the response was a microwave would a be a nice to have, but not a must, since she has one in her current home, and she could bring it with her. As for a dishwasher, this was a must-have, she just had forgotten about asking for it. This is all good information, not only do I have clearer requirements, but I have also started to get Mom to prioritize her requirements as well.

So I continued to ask Mom about other items on her list, until I had a much clearer idea of what she wanted. At this point, I put all of her requirements into a document and created a matrix. As I visited each community, I made notes in the matrix about how each community did or did not meet her requirements (wow…a traceability matrix!). Once the initial visits were complete, I shared the results with Mom. We looked at the matrix, the additional materials I had collected from each community, and even looked at the various floor plans that were available. The floor plans reminded me a lot of wireframes…a low tech visual representation of the living space.

Now that I have more information about each option, it was time to review our requirements again, to refine them with the additional knowledge that we gained. We had a better idea of costs, and that became one of our constraints. Another constraint was time, which community had availability and which did not. Wow…this is looking like a real project now!

This story project is not yet complete, but you can see that many of the same skills and tools that are used for IT projects are also being used in this example as well. So far, I have used a JAD session to gather requirements, I have a requirement list, a traceability matrix and some wireframes. The more tools that I use, the better set of final requirements we have. And this will hopefully result in a better selection for a new home for my Mom.

One Response to A Project for Mom

  1. AJD May 27, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    I agree. I’m a writer and was overwhelmed by where my work was (handwritten notes, files at work, files at home). I estimated the effort required to compile it and broke it to smaller tasks that could be achieved. Then, I compiled all the calls for submissions into a project plan XLS with deadlines and details. And, amazingly, I was submitting more work and getting more work accepted! So project management skills are definitely transferable to other areas in life.

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