If you’re anything like me, you’ll agree that watching music live is so much better than listening to recorded music. I recently saw a number of bands play at an open-air concert and it reinvigorated my love for live music. Being part of an audience and seeing a band in the ‘real world’ is second to none. Towards the end of the evening, the headline act came on and the crowd were buzzing. As the act progressed, the glow of hundreds of iPhones lit up the audience. Everyone (myself included) were trying to “capture the moment”, and in the connected world we live in, I wonder how many people were instantly posting the pictures and video to Facebook and Twitter.
The irony of course is that you really can’t “capture” the feeling of live music by taking photos and recording video, and you certainly can’t capture it accurately with an iPhone. At best, you’ll capture the vague feeling of what it’s like to be there.
As I thought about this, I put my phone away and decided to enjoy the concert and take in the sights and sounds, rather than capture pictures and videos as souvenirs. It was great fun, and I enjoyed it more without the distraction of trying to get a good camera angle!
This got me thinking about requirements elicitation. Sometimes, BAs are viewed as “scribes” – people who only listen to and record (write down) what stakeholders say. In situations like this, stakeholders might have little appetite for answering a BA’s questions. They might even try to push BAs into the “scribe” role…. (“Who are you to question my views? It’s my business”). BAs become marginalized, and in a worst case scenario are seen as administrators rather than innovators!
A BA acting as a scribe is like an audience member trying to record a concert with an iPhone. Merely recording what a stakeholder says means that a BA is an observer rather than a participant in a meeting. As BAs, it is essential that we proactively question, challenge and act as a critical friend to our business stakeholders. To continue the analogy, a BA scribing (and doing no other analysis) is like an audience member standing to the side at a concert and recording the band, rather than actually engaging and enjoying the music. If you’re busy scribing, you won’t have the opportunity to ask probing questions, to shape the meeting or to sense any tension that might be in the room. There’s the risk that you’ll miss things. Perhaps you’ll miss a key point a stakeholder makes because you’re busy writing up the previous point.
I’m sure you’ll agree that as BAs we can add much more value than being mere scribes. Requirements don’t just “appear” in conversation… we elicit them, analyse them, resolve conflict, build models check for consistency, validate and verify them…. And then they might be ready to pass to a solution provider! We challenge and we’re challenged. And we can’t do this by standing at the side and acting as a scribe. However, our stakeholders might not always appreciate this.
It’s important that we don’t get pushed into the role of scribe by stakeholders who don’t fully understand the value that we can and do add. The inevitable truth is that part of the BA role involves explaining the BA role to others. Setting clear expectations with stakeholders at the outset can be a great help too. If you find yourself being pushed into the role of scribe, take a step back, remember why you’re there and ask probing questions. By doing this, and by helping stakeholders to consolidate their thoughts, they’ll see the value you can add. Facilitate, participate, shape and act as a critical friend to the business. They’ll thank you for it in the long-term!
Learn More About Elicitation
If you’d like to learn more about how to ask probing questions and use other critical elicitation techniques, click here to learn more about our Essential Elicitation Skills course.