It’s difficult to even think about being a business analyst without elicitation. Yet, it’s so core, it’s often difficult to abstract from the other BA tasks as well. It seems we are almost always eliciting something – the business need, the solution requirements, our stakeholder’s concerns, assumptions and constraints, detailed requirements, etc.
Some elicitation will, by the nature of what it takes to be a BA, happens without a lot of premeditation. The big chunks of elicitation where we discover the majority of our business or solution requirements will benefit from some careful preparation. And that’s what we are going to consider in this post.
Preparing for elicitation involves clarifying the scope of the selected elicitation technique, gathering any supporting materials, and scheduling all the people and resources.
Prepare for Elicitation – Step 1 – Clarify Elicitation Scope
Before we begin elicitation, we either consciously or intuitively decide what we want to achieve through the activity.
In the best of words, the scope of a phase or session of elicitation is formally captured in a meeting agenda and communicated to all involved stakeholders. You might even create a detailed elicitation plan that includes a stakeholder analysis – identifying who will be involved and what their role is.
At a minimum, you’ll mentally prepare for a conversation before popping your head into someone’s office. (This might sound a bit tongue-in-cheek, and it is! But I also know that perfectionism is a big deal in the business analysis space, and I don’t want you to discount what you do to prepare, even if it’s not incredibly formal.)
Prepare for Elicitation – Step 2 – Gather Supporting Materials
Gathering supporting materials is equally significant. This could involve research into what documentation or artifacts already exist. Or, it could involve completing another task to create a deliverable, such as using requirements analysis to analyze the “as is” process as a starting point for an elicitation discussion.
On one project where I was working remotely as a BA for a very geographically-dispersed organization a wiki was in place as a primary means of sharing information and documentation. In this organization, “supporting materials” often meant creating a skeleton wiki page containing any known information about the project along with links to other supporting documents such as as is processes or wireframes. Stakeholders were sent links to the materials in advance of the meeting.
Another element of your supporting materials will be your requirements questionnaires. A requirements questionnaire is essentially the list of questions you have about the requirements related to the scope of the session.
(By the way, we offer a Requirements Discovery Checklist Pack which includes over 700 categorized and cross-referenced questions to drill into the details behind common business processes and features. Essentially you’ll have everything you need to create your requirements questionnaires.)
Prepare for Elicitation – Step 3 – Schedule Resources
Finally, there is the need to actually schedule the meeting. In a complex stakeholder environment, this is often easier said than done. You might reschedule the meeting multiple times to find a time that works for all the participants. At times when a suitable time cannot be found, I’ve restructured the meeting so I can meet with different parts of the group separately and accommodate various schedules. Scheduling resources also involves nailing down meeting logistics: the conference room, conference call numbers, securing the projector, etc.
On my first BA project, we had two standing one hour meetings each week called “use case meetings” in which we performed a combination of elicitation and analysis. In this organization, getting a meeting on people’s calendars was a significant task. Having this regular time made scheduling (of both people and tangible resources – we had one projector for 4 BAs and it was often double-booked) easier and created a nice pace for the other aspects of the business analysis process.
Ignore Preparing for Elicitation At Your Own Risk
While at first blush, preparing for elicitation may seem insignificant, in my experience newer business analysts often underestimate the importance of this activity. Then they wonder why their elicitation sessions consistently go off track and they consistently miss deadlines.
When they learn to build in time to prepare for their elicitation sessions, their business analysis work starts flowing much more easily, and they gain significant credibility with their stakeholders as well.
Whether formal or informal, intuitive or structured, documented or undocumented, preparing for elicitation helps put your best foot forward as a BA and helps solidify stakeholder relationships by showing you value the time they spend with you while you are conducting elicitation.
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