A reader asks:
I am awaiting feedback from a client on a Requirements document. It has been 3 weeks and I haven’t gotten any response. I have already sent an email reminding them. How do I request feedback or even sign-off without sounding too demanding?
As business analysts it’s our job not just to craft requirements documentation, but also to ensure that they reflect the actual business needs. To do that, we require feedback and input from our business stakeholders. So, to start with, I’d worry less about sounding too demanding than about doing what it takes to get your job done.
But let’s look at the potential root causes of this situation and some ideas for circumventing each of them.
#1 – Not Setting Clear Expectations Upfront
Often this sort of problem creeps up because we do not set good expectations when starting a project. Consciously or not, we allow our stakeholders to mistakenly assume that once they meet with the BA once – poof! their wishes will be answered and sometime later the software will magically appear that is exactly what they need.
As BAs, we need to manage the requirements process – and this means setting specific expectations for the roles we need our stakeholders to fill for us to be effective. Otherwise, we run the risk of them assuming that requirements take too long. Every time I meet with a stakeholder, I let them know we’ll be meeting again or collaborating in some way. If I can, I let them know exactly what I’ll need them to do. If I’m not sure, I leave the window open so they know they’ll be on the hook for something.
If your stakeholder doesn’t understand that their delay in providing feedback is holding up the project, oftentimes clarifying why their feedback is important and how this task you’ve asked them to do fits into the overall project lifecycle will get things moving again.
#2 – Asking For Non-Specific Feedback
Another root cause might be that you’ve asked for “feedback” but have not been specific about the type of feedback you require. Requirements documents can be very intimidating for stakeholders (especially when they are longer than they need to be). They may not understand what information you need or how to review the document you’ve sent. They may be looking at this big “to do” in their inbox and making excuses for putting it off day by day.
You can help by determining exactly what kind of feedback you need from the stakeholder. Do they need to review the entire document? Do you need them to answer some follow-up questions? Reframe your request very specifically and it’s more likely to seem doable and therefore get done.
#3 – Project is Not a Priority
If you’ve addressed the first two causes, then it may be that this project simply isn’t important. It may be that your stakeholders don’t understand the importance of the project to the organization, in which case escalating to your management might get things moving. Or, it might be that the project isn’t important to the organization. Try to get assigned to more critical path work.
Your To Do List
Since it’s been three weeks and your request is hanging out there, here’s what I’d suggest as a series of next steps.
- Determine exactly what kind of feedback you need from the stakeholder. Reframe your request very specifically.
- Ascertain the impact that their lack of response is having on the project. What can’t happen until they provide feedback? When do you need this feedback by to keep the project moving as planned?
- Initiate a one-on-one conversation with the stakeholder. Yes, it’s important at this point that you have a conversation and not just send an email. Mention your previous request and ask if there is something specific that’s been holding them back from getting started. Clarify your request and how it fits into the project lifecycle. Gain a commitment from the stakeholder to provide the feedback you need by a specific day.
- If your stakeholder is not sure how to provide the feedback you require, schedule a meeting to do a requirements review. Often a conversation is much more productive than an offline review. Or, it may be that you need to engage additional stakeholders in your requirements process to finalize the specifications.
- Learn from the experience so you can improve next time!
>>Get the Feedback You Need
Here are a few articles from the archive that look at how to get the feedback you need to be successful as a business analyst.