Join Haydn Thomas for an in-depth discussion in this video Brainstorming to gather requirements, part of Business Analysis Foundations.
- The referee in a game of football is there to ensure the rules of the game are followed and to watch for infringements. Without the referee and rules of engagement, chaos reigns. How do we know who wins? A requirements brainstorming session is much like a game of football. Lots of different ideas are thrown into the performance of the team and the project, and it's often up to you as the business analyst, to make sure you get enough good ideas to move the project forward. To be the referee, to set the rules of engagement.
Brainstorming is used in requirement solicitation to get as many ideas as possible from a group of people. Brainstorming casts a wide net, identifying many different possibilities. Prioritization of those possibilities is important to finding the needles in the haystack. However, without the game plan and rules to abide by in brainstorming, only the loudest and strongest person in the group will be heard. Brainstorming is a short group session where everyone is allowed to say whatever they feel is important to the topic of discussion.
The facilitator leads the group through the process, ensuring all participants are adhering to these basic rules for brainstorming. Start out by clearly stating the objective and expected deliverables from the session. The aim is to generate as many ideas as possible through participation by all participants. Next, one person speaks at a time, and no bad ideas, criticism or debate is allowed. High volume is the goal, so spit it out.
It doesn't have to be refined. Piggybacking by following on ideas are encouraged. Next, keep energies and focus high by time-boxing the discussion. You are ensuring off-topic ideas and information are captured for later discussion. And finally, once information is gathered, reshape and combine ideas. Here are four easy steps to facilitate a general brainstorming session with a group of seven to 10 people. Step one, set the ground rules.
Let people know that this is a brainstorming session which means that all ideas are valuable. They may be bad ideas but they can lead to good ideas. Most important thing is to make sure people don't criticize any ideas. People need to feel no fear. This is a creative release and they need to feel secure that any ideas they throw out are for the good of the cause. Step two, set a time limit. There have been studies that show that creative thought is more effective when there's a time limit.
Set a 20-minute time limit on the session. Long enough to get some juices flowing but short enough that people won't feel like it's a waste of time. Step three, define a starting point. Since we're eliciting requirements for a specific product or service, we have a context. Identifying the high-level goals of the business for this project and writing them up before the meeting, people will read this during the setup and subconsciously start thinking of ideas. And finally, step four, shout out and write.
This is the fun part. Everyone who is in the room shares ideas as they come to them. Write them all down. Don't editorialize the ideas. If the group is too raucous, get a second person writing down ideas. Don't try and cram all the ideas together into nice, organized lists. Just write them wherever is convenient. This isn't time for structure. Prioritize quantity over quality at this point. Then it's time to sort through the ideas. We do this by first flagging the requirements that should be considered.
We then categorize the requirements by importance to achieving the outcomes of the project by asking the group to determine if they are mandatory, important or nice to have. Each person will rate every requirement. We then have everyone prioritize the requirements. Not all mandatories are 100 percent mandatory. So each individual in the group enter a score of one to five, with five being the highest for each requirement. As the referee, it's up to you to provide guidance about how ideas should be rated, but ultimately, each person will make a judgement call, and that's okay.
Once we have tallied the scores, we now have a prioritized and categorized first set of requirements. Brainstorming isn't the key to writing a requirements document, but it does get us to a starting point when we are faced with customers who don't know what they want. Even people who aren't sure what they want, they generally have a good idea about what they don't want. Determine this early on in the project process and you're more likely to have a win.
Discover where business analysis lives in the project life cycle, how to initiate a project, the best way to gather requirements, and smart strategies to monitor results and test outcomes.
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- Understanding what business analysts do
- Defining business opportunities and objectives
- Identifying stakeholders
- Gathering requirements through observation and brainstorming
- Validating requirements
- Developing project acceptance criteria
- Implementing, testing, and closing your project<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.