How to Plan Your Business Analysis Elicitation Sessions
After you’ve designed all the questions for your business analysis research, it’s time to arrange it all into a master plan. You’re ready to lay everything out so you can move forward and get the information you need. The plan is also vital for keeping everyone on the same page and keeping your session — and therefore, the project — on track.
Elicitation occurs throughout the project, in different phases and from different people. In fact, it occurs anytime you capture project information. The key of any elicitation session is to note what info you need to capture, whom you need to capture it from, and when you can capture (a meeting schedule).
Planning your elicitation sessions isn’t an exact science; it’s really more of an art. However, here is a rough checklist for you to follow as you lay everything out and capture the project information:
Determine how many systems you’re interfacing with.
Knowing how many systems are involved helps you identify the stakeholders you need to elicit information from in order to understand interfaces, data, processes, and business rules.
Detail the number of stakeholders you’re eliciting from.
By knowing the number, you can determine which elicitation techniques work best.
Figure out where the stakeholders are.
Eliciting from people who work in the same office as you do is different from eliciting from people in another state (or even halfway across the world). You may choose similar elicitation techniques for each group, but the meeting tools you choose may be different.
For instance, you can still have a facilitated workshop, but instead of physically gathering stakeholders together in one meeting, you may have to use an online meeting tool.
Outline your stakeholders’ personalities.
Are they visual people? Auditory people? Kinesthetic people? Everyone has a primary learning and interaction style. Knowing your stakeholders’ preferred style puts you in a better position to tailor your message to your audience.
Specify the time frame you have for elicitation, according to the company.
You may need to collect all the requirements in a short period of time. This constraint means you may need to develop and elicit the requirements in a highly-intensive Joint Application Development (JAD) session.
Explain the scope of the project.
After the project is underway, it should have a clearly defined project scope indicating the boundaries of your project and the objectives to be delivered by the project. You don’t want to go outside the boundaries of the scope.
Admittedly, moving beyond the project scope helps you understand more about what goes on outside the boundaries of the project at hand, but you only have a limited time with which to focus on the scope of the project.
Break down which questions go with which stakeholder.
Write out your stakeholders’ schedules and find the time that works best for them; then book your session.
Remember to address not only stakeholders’ schedules but also their time zones and when their days start and end. Schedule at a time when stakeholders are going to be at their best.
Knowing a particular stakeholder is a “don’t talk to me before I’ve had my morning coffee” kind of person is a great piece of information to have; you don’t ever want to schedule her for a session first thing in the morning, or you may suffer the wrath of an improperly caffeinated stakeholder!
When you book your sessions, make sure everyone understands where the session is going to take place and what the objective is.
If you’re using applications and tools for elicitation, make sure you pre-trip — or test out — the tool prior to the actual elicitation session.
You want to do everything you can to avoid technical problems during the actual elicitation session.
Conduct your elicitation session.
Show time: Now you get your hands — er, and also eyes and ears — dirty! Be ready to improvise in your elicitation sessions. Do not go down your list of questions one by one. Your questions are just a starting point; let the conversation flow naturally.
You can’t possibly come up with all the questions you need to ask, and some will come out of the sessions, so go with the flow. Your stakeholder may have lots of good information you didn’t plan for.
Don’t be overly concerned if all your initial questions aren’t answered. You can always schedule another session to clarify, and some of the information the stakeholders offer may answer some of the future questions you have (and you don’t even have to time-travel).