When to Use Email to Answer Requirements Questions

Today let’s talk about email, specifically emailing to discover information related to requirements questions.

You as the business analyst sit down and write a carefully crafted email with a very thoughtful question and send it off to your very busy stakeholder for an answer.email

This email is likely to be met with one of the following types of responses:

  • A quick response with exactly the information you need.
  • A quick response with the wrong information.
  • A delayed response, perhaps a day or two later, with a partial answer to your question.
  • A delayed response indicating that they do not have the information you need or do not understand your question.
  • No response at all.

The first type of response, which is often what you are hoping for, can be extremely likely, but only if three criteria are met:

  • You have a strong relationship with this stakeholder.
  • You are working on a project the stakeholder perceives to be high priority.
  • Most importantly, you have asked a simple question that is easy to understand and answer.

However, how often are the questions we ask about requirements simple? And how often are they truly, from a stakeholder perspective, easy to answer? Moreover, when is your stakeholder relationship and project priority going to put responding to your email up at the top of your stakeholder’s list of tasks to invest their time into with diligence?

The probability of all of these criteria being met is actually very low, meaning that email is most often not the best way to get answers to your requirements questions.

Email can be preferable to us as business analysts because it feels safe. It gives us time to carefully choose and rewrite our words and thoughtfully phrase our question.

But more often than not, the answers we receive (if we receive them at all) do not have the information we need. And even if they do, we have follow-up questions that now require subsequent carefully crafted emails.

While we might feel productive, we’re actually wasting precious time and energy, writing emails, waiting for responses, and figuring out our follow-up responses. Yet we still have not received information that can help us move our project forward.

If this sounds like a scenario you’ve faced, it’s time to step up and start facilitating discussions to get your requirements questions answered. Face-to-face or virtual meetings provide the time and space for you to present information, clarify questions, and ask follow-up questions. They also provide space for stakeholders to clarify what information is needed, think through (or talk through) their response, and bounce their ideas off of other stakeholders.

Before you write your next email, consider whether you should be picking up the phone or scheduling a short meeting instead. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t write the email in less than 5 minutes, you’ll probably be more effective facilitating a discussion.

Here are a few articles to get you started planning discussions, so you can feel confident and get the most value out of yours and your stakeholders’ time.

How to Create Quick and Effective Meeting Agendas

Facilitate More Effective Meetings: 3 Things to Do in the First 5 Minutes

How I Take Notes and Facilitate the Discussion Without Driving Myself Crazy

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Click here to learn more about the Email Communication Templates

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