One of the most frustrating challenges on a project is when the developers build a solution that everyone thought the business signed off on only to have significant changes surface during testing or even after deployment.
As a business analyst, you can provide tremendous value by not only getting sign off on the requirements, but also getting buy in from stakeholders about what the solution needs to do and how it fits into their workflow before development even begins.
So how do you get buy in and meaningful sign off on your requirements to avoid unnecessarily changes and costs? In this video, Laura shares 3 tips for getting meaningful sign offs that you can use on your next project!
Engaging stakeholders is a critical piece to streamlining your sign off process. Our free guide, 10 Tips for Engaging Stakeholders, is a great place to start so you can supercharge your stakeholder management skills.
One of the most frustrating challenges on a project is when the developers build a solution that everyone thought the business had signed off on, only to have significant changes surface during testing or even after deployment. Business analysts can provide tremendous value by getting not just the sign-off on the requirements, but buy-in from the business stakeholders about what the solution needs to do and how it fits into their workflow before the development even begins.
Gaining buy-in saves a tremendous amount of time and effort and reduces the need for expensive rework late in the development cycle. Keep watching, and I’m going to share how to gain buy-in in a meaningful way on your requirements.
Hi, I’m Laura Brandenburg with Bridging the Gap, where we help you start, succeed, and excel in your business analyst career with weekly videos and business analysis tips and techniques.
Requirements Sign-Off Tip #1 – Focus on Sign-Off as a Tool for Obtaining Buy-In
Let’s start off with tip number one, which is to focus on sign-off as a tool for obtaining buy-in.
The BA’s job is to get meaningful feedback on the requirements so that they represent what the business actually wants from the solution. In my very first role, we used to walk through the requirements line by line as part of getting sign-off. These meetings would take hours and would require dozens of people to be there, and then I need to get an email confirmation from each and every person about that same long document.
I know in other organizations, sometimes an actual signature, either physically or electronically, is required and sometimes this can be necessary for regulatory reasons. It’s more important, though, to focus on what that signoff actually represents, and that is buy-in. Buy-in means that the business agrees with what’s documented. It actually wants to move forward with having that solution built based on the specifications.
As I matured as a business analyst, I started to shorten my reviews and really hone my approach to make it more efficient.
Requirements Sign-Off Tip #2 – Be Clear on What Input You Are Looking For
That leads me to sign-off tip number two, which is to be clear on what input you are even looking for. Most projects have different phases of sign-off. You might sign-off or approve the scope or the business case. You might sign-off on specific requirements, deliverables, such as a business process or a use case, or even a data mapping document. You might have sign-off on the implementation and transition plans.
Gaining sign-off at each stage is significant, and using your business analysis framework to guide that is crucial. It provides a valuable opportunity to engage your stakeholders, to seek their input and ensure their buy-in at each stage of the life cycle so that you don’t get off track doing something that’s irrelevant because you are getting that buy-in incrementally and iteratively throughout the project.
By obtaining sign-off in those major phases, you establish a solid foundation for success, and you also foster a shared sense of ownership from your business team.
Oh, and that business analysis framework I just mentioned, if you don’t have one yet, you certainly need one. You can start by learning about our eight step business analysis process framework that I outlined in another video I did a while ago, which you can watch after finishing this video by clicking below.
The mindset here that you want to bring into your work as a business analyst is, what is the next decision that needs to be made to move my project forward? Always be driving towards that as a business analyst and moving from ambiguity to clarity in the context of that decision. This will keep you moving forward in a proactive and efficient way and not getting bogged out in making decisions about details too early in the project, which often leads to analysis paralysis.
Requirements Sign-Off Tip #3 – Customize Your Approach to Sign-Off Based on Your Stakeholders
Requirements tip number three is to customize your approach to sign-off based on who your stakeholders are.
Let’s really be honest here. Most of our stakeholders are not all that great at reading requirements. As business analysts, we bring a lot of expertise in writing and organizing requirements and analyzing requirements, and there are times when a requirements review or a walkthrough is the best way to get sign-off. But I found that the easiest way to get buy-in is when I customize my approach specifically to a group of stakeholders.
If you have a hard time engaging stakeholders in sign-off or a hard time engaging them in general, we recently created a new free guide that aims to help boost stakeholder engagement. If you want a copy, you can click below to get a download of it.
Let me just share a few examples of how I’ve customized my approach.
- On one contract, I reviewed annotated wire frames with the business stakeholders. I had the use case and the user story right up in hand. I had done that analytical thinking and writing to make sure I had all the questions that I needed to ask and all the information that I needed to verify. I used my use case thinking to identify those questions. But ultimately the details made it into the user stories for the developer to review and implement. But on the screen, it was a visual model of what that screen might look like with some little sticky note annotations that they could review and provide feedback on.
- On another project, I created a clickthrough prototype. That could handle a few different key scenarios and had the business stakeholder actually use that prototype to provide feedback. This was somebody who is just super hands-on and tactile and like needed to see it working in order to be able to really provide great feedback. I was able to do that in a click-through prototype. You might even consider slide decks with abstract visual models and key bullet points for high level and strategic details.
For those who need to buy into the project vision and approach, but not necessarily all of the minute little details, consider who your audience is. Consider what feedback you need from those stakeholders and then look at how to get that specific kind of feedback and buy-in. That is always what you want to be doing as a business analyst to make your process efficient and effective. I really do believe it’s your job to find ways of communicating the requirements and keeping them in sync, and it’s their job to meet you halfway and provide some meaningful feedback.
Is Requirements Sign-Off Still Relevant in Agile?
One question I often get about this is whether requirements sign-off is still relevant in agile.
While agile practices might not require an official “sign-off,” there is definitely an assumption of buy-in built into the user stories that are brought forward for implementation in a sprint. If you want to save unnecessary rework, it’s essential that either a product owner or supporting business analyst gains buy-in from all the necessary business stakeholders on the solution approach and the details before that user story is brought to a sprint for implementation.
To ensure successful signoff and to obtain meaningful buy-in, remember these key steps.
- Focus on securing buy-in from your stakeholders and clearly define the input you need and the decision that needs to be in the main next, and customize your approach for each stakeholder or stakeholder group so that you’re meeting them where they’re at and can get the best possible feedback. Engaging stakeholders is crucial for a streamlined sign-off process.
- Don’t forget to download our free guide, “10 tips for engaging stakeholders,” to supercharge your stakeholder management and your skills in engaging stakeholders.
- Lastly, as part of the sign-off process, incorporating requirements reviews or walkthroughs can be essential.
Join me in the next video below where I’ll share practical best practices for efficient and effective requirements reviews. I’ll see you there.