How to Avoid Incomplete Business Requirements

There are many reasons that BAs end up producing incomplete requirements, and this can have an extremely negative impact on our job performance.

Today we’re taking a question from one Bridging the Gap community member, who gave us this scenario:

“In my company, there are no business requirements meetings. Business requirements are discussed among other meetings that include brainstorming, future feature planning, and the design reviews.  The timeframe is generally one hour and I don’t feel like I have the opportunity to ask the requirement questions I need and want to ask due to time constraints and the many agenda items in that meeting.

Again, I’m told requirements are not being captured completely.  What is a recommendation you can give to improve my performance?”

Listen in (or read the transcript) to learn about my suggestions for improving BA job performance and resolving incomplete requirements.

 

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

Today, let’s talk about how to avoid incomplete requirements. This is a big one; a juicy topic. It’s important as BAs. This is how we know that we did what we were supposed to do is if we avoid missing requirements.

Let’s talk about it and let’s dive right in.

Before we talk about the tips I have, I want to share the question that came out because I think it’s so insightful. The kind of pressure that we put on ourselves as BAs, it comes out in this question. Here’s the question from this reader.

“In my company, there are no business requirements meetings. Business requirements are discussed among other meetings that include brainstorming, future feature planning, and the design reviews. The timeframe is generally one hour, and I don’t feel like I have the opportunity to ask requirements questions that I need to and want to ask due to time constraints and the many agenda items in that meeting.

Again, I’m told the requirements are not being captured completely. What is a recommendation you can give to improve my performance?”

Big issues here. That pressure of trying to get things done in a short amount of time, feeling like you need to work within somebody else’s meeting, and then being told that you’re not doing a good job. This is not fun.

Let’s dig into exactly what to do here.

The Solution to Incomplete Business Requirements – First, Get Clear on Your Role

The first thing is you want to get clear on your role. Whenever performance issues are at stake, understand what is it that, as a business analyst, that you’re truly responsible for. Not all business analyst roles are the same, and your role might be a little bit different than you expect. The number one reason people have performance issues is because they’re trying to deliver something that people aren’t expecting of them.

You really want to get clear on what those expectations are. Talk to your project manager, talk to your manager, and talk to the stakeholders who use your requirements. Understand what would help them the most and how you can make the best contribution. What gap are you responsible for filling? That’s what you’re looking for here.

The Solution to Incomplete Requirements – Second, Take Ownership of the Requirements Process

Then you want to take ownership of the requirements process. The last thing you want to do is try to fit your requirements process into somebody else’s meeting schedule. As business analysts, we’re typically scheduling meetings, planning out the elicitation and discovery process, planning out the review process of our documentation, which we’re going to get to next. You want to take ownership of that process. Then say,

“In order to deliver on that role that we just clarified for me, these are the steps that I need to take.”

Often, it’s going to be a couple of discussions to discover the information, a couple of reviews, some time to do analysis in between that, and reviews and validation that you’ve got to write. You want to take ownership of that process and say, “This is what we need to do.” And then, schedule those meetings, the time you think you need, probably giving yourself a little bit extra time even, and work to make those productive, effective meetings that move the requirements forward. That’s the second thing.

The Solution to Incomplete Business Requirements – Third, Don’t Skip Reviews and Validations

The third thing is to be sure not to skip those validations and reviews. Just showing up to meetings and asking a couple of questions is not enough. It’s a guarantee that you will miss requirements if you’re only asking questions. You also need to do some sort of walk-through and validation.

Now, this doesn’t have to be five hours sitting and reviewing a 50-page document. I’ve done that. Early in my career, that’s how we validated requirements. It was painful. It worked to a certain extent. There were some flaws in that. It’s not a best practice today. But you have to do some sort of a walk-through. It could be a wireframe walk-through. It could be a process flow diagram walk-through. It could be a use case walk-through or a business process walk-through.

Whatever it is, it’s that validation that the documentation that you’ve created, the analysis you’ve done is complete, and is it missing anything? That’s when you get that “Yes, but” response from stakeholders that leads you to new requirements that you’re going to miss if you’re just asking questions.

The Solution to Incomplete Business Requirements – If You Have Resistance

Then, what’s next? You have to do what we just said. Clarify your role, own the process, and then do the validation process, too, which is where the new requirements are going to come.

You might have resistance to this. If there is a reason that somebody’s giving you only a few minutes on an agenda item, they don’t think that this is what business analysis takes. They feel like you just are going to create the requirements out of thin air. You might have some resistance at first. You want to demonstrate your value quickly and easily. Make sure those first meetings you schedule are productive.

You might start by, instead of the whole thing we just laid out, take ownership of one issue that came up in the meeting and say, “I will schedule a meeting to make sure we discuss that issue.” If an issue is in a meeting that’s going off track and you can tell it’s going to derail the meeting, you can say,

“I’d love to jump in and I can schedule a follow-up with just the people that need to be there. We will handle that issue and make sure we get the requirements defined for that issue.”

Just take ownership of it. Demonstrate that you’re starting to work in a new way, and that you’re ready to contribute, and that you’re able to contribute in that new way. That’s one way to start breaking down the resistance to the process.

Another is when those issues requirements do come up, say,

“This is what I want to do to correct that. I’d like to hold a meeting, go through the requirements document, make sure that this time I haven’t missed anything.”

Really get the stakeholders involved, and use that as a solution to when these performance issues come up. Suggest an alternate approach and use that as a time to get buy-in. You’ve got to overcome it. Until you take ownership of the process and have the space to take ownership of the BA process, you will continue to miss requirements. You’ll continue to feel like you’re scrambling and rushing and not getting what you need. You’ll be reactive instead of proactive.

How can you shift from that reactive, “I don’t have enough time,” to “Here is what I need to be successful as a business analyst, and here’s what I’m going to do.”

Again. I hope that’s helpful. Good luck. It’s a tough challenge. It’s a tough situation. But I know that you can do it and I know these suggestions are going to help you improve your work as a business analyst overall.

Figure Out What Your Business Users Really Want [Free Template]

One of the most important boundaries you can set as a business analyst is to be sure your business stakeholders are deeply involved in the requirements process, and have a lot of direct input and feedback. Starting by analyzing their business process helps put them in the position to tell you what they really, really want.

Business process analysis is often the very first technique used by business analysts when we start learning a new domain or analyze the scope of a project. Today, I’m offering my Business Process Template to you (absolutely free of charge!).

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