Join Terri Wagner for an in-depth discussion in this video Examining common elicitation techniques, part of Project Management Foundations: Requirements.
- There are many elicitation techniques available to you. Some are more one-on-one types of techniques. Some are more group-focused, while others are technology or existing system focused. Let's start by looking at the best elicitation techniques for one-on-one elicitation. Interviews are a great way to go when you pick the right people and come with properly prepared questions. Better yet, I've at times sent the entire list of questions to my stakeholder before the meeting, so they have time to prepare too.
First steps in the interview may be to break the ice with some general conversation to help build rapport. You may observe things in the stakeholder's office or surrounding that allow you to ask some gentle opening questions about something of interest to them, such as a vacation photo they have on their desk. This works well with some folks but not with others. If you're familiar with the DiSC Personality Profile System, this would work well with your I and S personalities but not for the D or C personalities.
For some more ideas on how DiSC can help you better understand and approach the people you are interviewing, check out the Lynda.com Managing Project Stakeholders course. Inside you'll find a movie about engaging interpersonal skills. Observation, your next technique, has also been called job shadowing. Sometimes watching what someone does lends information the user or stakeholder does so automatically they forget to tell you during a conversation or interview.
Surveys or questionnaires can also provide tons of very helpful information to help you gather your requirements. You'll want to carefully design the questionnaire and determine if you want to ask open- or closed-ended question types. A challenge here is making sure you're not leading their responses but allow for them to really tell you what's important to them. Next are group-elicitation techniques. There's nothing quite like the power of the group mind. Strong facilitation skills are required to focus the group and get helpful input.
Brainstorming provides out-of-the-box or lateral type of thinking and can often generate new ideas from the group dynamics. When the stakeholders have very different ideas, your challenge will be to help facilitate agreed outcomes from these group processes. Focus groups have a very specific and often narrow area of concentrated dialog, with key subject matter experts that can provide the proper information. Requirements workshops can be a whole range of things, from a few folks gathered in the cafeteria, trying to clarify some things you're thinking about to a more formal meeting, carefully walking through what's needed for this project to an agile approach like time-boxed go-fast sessions.
Group sessions often produce good data, and members now have some skin in the game or a sense of commitment to the project. Then there's elicitation tools for existing stuff, such as document analysis, interface analysis, or reverse engineering. Keep in mind these techniques are not meant to stand alone. They're meant to be combined in a way that is most useful for your project. These techniques are also meant to be iterated. You're never going to get all the information upfront.
You may start with a critical mass of information to start modeling and analyzing and figuring out what the real requirements are, then you'll go back and get more information to clarify, fill in the blanks, and look at different things. Prototyping techniques can either be technology-based or much simpler approaches, like outlining or paper prototyping, storyboarding, or wireframing. Lynda.com has several other courses that offer details on these topics.
To see a comparison of the techniques we've discussed, see the exercise file. The problem with requirements is you're often not given enough time to develop them as you would like. Often the requirements piece is only given 10 to 15% of the development life cycle, which will force you to work really smart and really quickly. So, you may be faced with trade-off decision making on the techniques you can use based on your time constraints. Some of these techniques are very good, yet take a significant chunk of time.
When you're done with this step, you'll have the stated requirements. The business analyst or project team member tasked with gathering requirements will now need to analyze all the information provided to derive the real or final requirements. When more requirements are given than what you have time or money to accomplish, you'll need to have some prioritization techniques to select the final requirements that fit within your constraints. Checking back with our wind farm project, if you wanted to use the observation technique, you might consider visiting an existing wind farm to see how they operate and the challenges they're currently facing.
Community meetings, workshops, or survey techniques will help you engage your neighbors to the proposed site and see what their concerns are and get them on-board with the project. Regulatory and compliance requirements need to be researched and understood, and market analysis for business feasibility on this project must be done, all of which would use your document analysis and research techniques. What elicitation techniques are you using right now? Have you discovered some new ones you'd like to explore?
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- Classifying requirements
- Developing requirements
- Investigating requirements
- Documenting requirements
- Validating requirements
- Managing changing requirements