Properly managing a requirements workshop is essential to your business analysis. Info and ideas constantly fly business analysis back and forth during workshops, and if you don’t capture them, they disappear. Plus, if you don’t keep the conversation focused on the goal of the session and on the right track, you may not accomplish the elicitation needed for the project.
How to use parking lots for a business analysis requirements workshop
A parking lot is a list of topics or concerns people bring up in the meeting that you don’t want to address at that moment. Simply add the items as they come up to the parking lot list. This technique has so many advantages it’s not even funny; here are two of the key ones:
It shows your concern for the stakeholder’s issue. Most people have a hard time dropping a point when they’re afraid that it’ll be forgotten. By adding it to the parking lot, you allay this fear, enabling the person to move on and not get stuck.
It keeps you on track. The concern the stakeholder brings up may be covered later in the agenda, so tabling the point lets you stay on your agenda and not get derailed at that moment.
At the end of the meeting, make sure you set aside some time (usually about 5 minutes for a 1-hour meeting) to review the parking lot. At this point, you cover the information, assign it as an action item, or determine whether you need to schedule another meeting to discuss the topic.
Before you get to the last option, though, see whether you can assign the concern to a group that can meet separately and provide a resolution.
Experiment with using different supplies, such as whiteboards and flip charts, to create your parking lot. You can even find flip chart paper that has adhesive on the business analystck so you can hang everyone’s ideas all around the room! And be prepared: The more organized the session, the more people will take it seriously.
How to keep things moving in a business analysis requirements workshop
As a business analyst, you act as a liaison among multiple groups, facilitating the sharing of information and ideas. Think of yourself as a traffic cop responsible for directing the traffic among the groups. If a technical stakeholder asks you a question about a decision the business makes, let the business answer if you don’t know. You don’t have to answer or even try to answer every question.
Also consider delegating responsibilities. If you’re running the meeting, consider enlisting the help of another business analyst to take notes; facilitating the meeting is difficult enough without having to take notes on top of that. At the end of the meeting, the note-taker can turn over the meeting transcript to you so you can summarize the meeting minutes.
If you’re using a conference call, consider having the note-taker logged into an instant messenger (IM). This way, if attendees on the conference bridge lose audio connection, they can notify you through IM.
How to wrap things up by assigning action items in a business analysis requirements workshop
Before you leave the workshop, make sure you assign action items and agree to a time for their completion.
When assigning action items (tasks), follow this advice:
Ask the person to take the item. Even though it’s usually clear who needs to take which action item, asking is good etiquette. It also makes good business sense because people are more invested in tasks they agree to than in those foisted on them. Actually asking is one of the best ways to get stakeholder buy-in.
Agree to a deadline. Instead of saying “You must complete that by Friday!”, ask the person assigned the task when he can provide the answer. If his answer falls within your preferred time frame, great; you get what you need, and he feels like he’s participated in setting the due date.
If he states a date after your deadline, ask why. He may have a very valid reason, and you need to understand that your ideal deadline may not be reasonable. If he doesn’t give a good reason, though, you need to explain why you need the information on a particular date. Sometimes further explanation is all that’s necessary to get the stakeholder to agree to your deadline.
If for whatever reason the date can’t be met by the person, consider reassigning the task to another team member to keep the project moving forward.
After the meeting, distribute the meeting minutes to the meeting attendees (and anyone else who asks to be informed) so they can confirm the discussion and especially the key decisions affecting the direction of the project). Good practice is to distribute the meeting minutes within 48 hours of the requirements workshop.