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Business Requirements Gathering – Tools of the Trade

At Seilevel we take business requirements gathering seriously- but we still like to have fun. So on a recent project, our efforts took us to one of our customer’s remote locations, since that was where several departments are located, and we needed to elicit requirements from those subject matter experts. As we prepared for our trip, we made a list of all the various things that we would need there, in addition to the obvious travel and facility arrangements.

Now, in preparing our list of tools, we kept in mind that this remote office was nervous about our visit.  While we are in the middle of the project, this office has not had the luxury of watching other groups go through our sprints, thus they were nervous about what to expect.  Thus, we wanted to make sure that this office had a very positive experience while we were here.

Here is our list of items:

  • Easel paper (the type that will stick to walls)
  • Markers (all colors and sizes)
  • Post-It Notes (for models such as Affinity Diagrams)
  • Projector (this small office only had one, but were had planned concurrent sessions)
  • Microsoft OneNote (terrific for taking notes)
  • Candy and other misc food items (no quicker way to get to a person’s heart than through their stomach!)
  • Play-Doh

Hold on…Play-Doh?

Yup, Play-Doh.  It has actually worked quite well as a tool.  Not necessarily to directly elicit requirements.  But it does give people something tactical to play with and do with their hands during sessions.  Especially during long sessions when you need to keep people’s attentions.  During those long sessions, people tend to mentally wander off…they start checking email, the latest postings on Facebook, etc.  But giving them something to do keeps them present.

It also provides some fun for the group as well.  Long elicitation sessions can be dry and boring.  But with the Play-Doh, people are interested in what other people are making.  Or, it can even be a team project.  One figurine that I saw created was the result of the whole group.  Each made a part of the end result.  And while focus is lost for short periods of time while the groups works on or comments on other’s creations…the time lost is minimal and refocusing the team is quick.

We have even taken pictures and attached those pictures to our daily status reports.  Suddenly, management is looking forward to our status reports, and they are actually getting read!  And I must admit, I believe that this remote office had a positive experience while we were here.

Now, I’m not saying that every elicitation session should include Play-Doh.  But it may be a tool that you have tucked away in your bag of tricks…ready to pull out if the situations warrants.  I think you may be surprised at the results you will get during your business requirements gathering!

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