3 things to do first, to get a quick and effective start on the requirements

Have you ever been asked to just get started writing the requirements? While it can feel quick and effective to jump right in and start documenting, this habit is likely to lead you down the wrong path, really, really quickly.

In this video I share the 3 things you should do first, that will set the stage for an effective requirements process.

Key points include:

  • Getting context about the project, particularly whether this is a new project or one that’s been worked on before.
  • Meeting with key business stakeholders to start building relationships.
  • Understanding the key business objectives for the project, and each stakeholder’s perceptions of those objectives.

To learn more about how to be an effective business analyst, check out the BA Essentials Master Class.

For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:

Today, I wanted to talk about three things that you really should do when you’re assigned to a new project as a BA and you wanted to get started quickly and effectively – just three things to keep in mind on your next project or maybe the project that just landed on your desk today.

#1 – Get Context

First is to get context. It’s not unusual for you to just receive an email about a project and go make it happen, and go start writing the requirements. You really want to take a step back and just get a little bit more context.

  • Is this a new project or is it a project that’s been worked on before?
  • What kind of stakeholders have been involved and how have they been involved?
  • What systems and processes does it impact?  Like if there’s that level of detail around it so far.
  • And just kind of what’s the context of the team like?
  • Is there a specific methodology that you’re supposed to be using or is that something that you’re going to have to come up with from scratch?

So, first, get context. Figure out where you are and where to jump in, because if you jump in and start writing requirements not really know about the history of what’s happened before in a little bit bigger picture detail, you could get started quickly, but in a super wrong direction.  So, quickly, but not really effectively.

#2 – Meet with Key Stakeholders

The second is to meet with any key stakeholders. Typically, it’s going to be that person who sent you the email. Again, to get a little bit more context and establish a working relationship. But it might not be somebody you’d met with before. So, you do want to introduce yourself, share what you know about the process and the project, and just get to know them and start that positive working relationship.

In a lot of projects, it’s not just one sponsor that you’re responsible for working with. Usually, there are a couple of key business stakeholders. So, take some time and meet with each of them.  What you really want to be asking about, which is the third thing to do on the start of the new project, is partly the context that we talked about before, but also, what are the business objectives?

#3 – Understand the Key Business Objectives

“Business objectives” is just a fancy word for, “Why are we doing this?”  What you’ll find, especially if you have a couple of different key stakeholders, is often, their sense of the business objectives is a little bit different from person to person to person.  By meeting with them and understanding what’s important to them about the project and why they feel like it’s an important thing to do here, you’re going to start already creating that bridge.

You want to create a shared understanding and context for the project so that when you do start jumping into defining the scope and holding requirement solicitation sessions, you are going to know what they want to have achieved through that project.  You’re going to know what differences to expect among those stakeholders.  You’re going to be able to plan more effective meetings to make sure that we’re getting everybody on the same page quickly and effectively.

Quick Recap on 3 Things to Do First

Those are the three things to do before you jump into writing requirements or even before you jump into writing a scope statement for a project.

To review:

  • You want to get a little bit of context about why this is happening, what’s been done before – if it’s new or if it’s something that you’re bringing up. Or if it’s been revisited before, but then it was put on a shelf.  Context is all about your team and who you’ll be working with.
  • You want to meet with those key business stakeholders and start building those relationships that you could leverage over the course of the project.
  • And, finally, you want to understand why we, as an organization, are investing in this project.  And what is each key stakeholder’s perception of that “Why?”

Those are three things to do before you jump in and just start writing the requirements that are super important. And even though they take a little bit of time up front, they’re actually going to help you move more quickly and effectively to getting to the right requirements, to creating meetings that truly get work done, and to really shine in your role as a business analyst.

To learn more about how to be an effective business analyst, check out the BA Essentials Master Class.

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