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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Effective Elicitation

As of late I have received questions on how to effectively elicit requirements.  I get asked the questions, how do you know the right questions to ask and how to effectively get people to tell you what they want?  I will admit it can be challenging to get subject matter experts (SMEs) to tell you what they want.  Let's first start with some of the reasons why it may be hard to get individuals to tell you what they want:

  1. It may be because they actually may not know what exactly they want.
  2. It may be because they feel the project is going to take away their job.
  3. It may be because they don't understand the purpose and scope of the project, the WHY.
  4. It may be because they don't agree with the project and don't buy in to the need.
  5. It may be political as some of the individuals may have ulterior motives.
  6. It may be because they don't like you. Let's just be honest, if there is no connection to you they may not want to interact with you.
The above are just some of the common reasons I have encountered in my career.  Not only do you have the above, but you are dealing with different personalities, temperaments, communication styles, work styles and more.  The simple fact that you are dealing with people is what makes elicitation and decision complicated.  Here are some tips I have used that have made this process easier for me. It may take some additional time in some parts of the process but it's worth it.

  1. Relationship Building - it's extremely important that you build relationships with those you are working with.  Getting to know the individuals you work with helps you to strategize and approach the work.  You take the time to understand what individuals like and don't like. You can determine their pet peeves.  You can uncover their communication styles and how they like to collaborate and work.  A lot of times we jump right into the project and start completing tasks instead of connecting with individuals you will be working with.  At the end of the day everyone on the project team is important and needed.  Every individual person is bringing something to the table.  Identify what this is and connect with them.  You know never the friendships you may make or long time connections you may have.  This step will help you when it comes to decision making as well.  You will start to build alliances and those alliances may be individuals who an help influence decision making.
  2. Plan - it's very important to plan.  Take a step back and plan how you will approach the elicitation and decision making work. Take time to determine the type of system you will use to conduct decision making.  In addition, understand the type of techniques you will leverage to conduct the elicitation based on the project team. This links back to building relationships as your approach may change based on the audience you are working with.
  3. Set Clear Expectations - frame up every meeting to ensure everyone understands the purpose and the outcome.  Ensure that individuals understand the purpose of the project and where they fit into the project.  Take time to explain the "WHY" as that opens up a lot of doors for people to buy-in and collaborate.
  4. Actively Listen  - sometimes it's better to listen than to talk.  Take time to listen to the SMEs concerns and overall to what they are saying.  It's not just always about getting the tasks done and getting your work completed, it's about listening to what those who are the experts have to say as that can help bring so much clarity.  You are the expert in the business analysis space, but the SMEs are the experts in the subject knowledge, or at least should be, so give them their time.
  5. Ask for Feedback - during the process ask for feedback. Feedback is a gift and asking for it is extremely important.  Determine a rhythm throughout the process to ensure you are meeting the expectations of those you are working with and the project as a whole.  If things need to be tweaked, then tweak them.   It's better to tweak early on than to find out later that you should have tweaked awhile ago.
  6. Be Adaptive and Flexible - I'm sure you have experienced this already, but projects tend to have change. 😀 The change could be in direction, scope, budget, etc...It's important to understand that you may need to change your approach at a drop of a hat.  Be prepared to have to change direction at any point and time.
  7. Stay Humble - in all things stay humble.  You bring a skill set to the table, but you need others to help you be successful.  Ensure to stay humble and true to yourself through it all.

Taking time to do these things will help you determine the right questions to ask and approaches to take to get decisions made. You are not just leveraging the technical, but also leveraging interpersonal skills to aide in getting the job done.  As I've said in the past 80% of what we do is interpersonal while 20% is technical.  Go forth and conquer!

BA Martial Artist