If you have had experience with requirements gathering in the past, you know this process can be time-intensive and laborious. However, using agile practices, requirements can be elicited at a fast pace and stay at a high level. Only once the work on a particular phase is scheduled to begin are additional details are gathered.
Each requirements meeting should allow time to:
- Gather requirements
- Group requirements
- Prioritize requirements
- Focus. What information do you really need out of the session? Are you focusing on data issues, business questions for visualizations, or current reports that need to be available as an interactive dashboard? The more concentrated the focus, the more meaningful the insight you can garner from each session.
- Prep the room. Set the stage for your participants by asking them meaningful questions. Determine what is your direct question, e.g. what questions have you wanted to answer in the past but have been unable to? Next, determine the best way to tell a story for your participants that will prepare them for the question. “Imagine you are sitting at your desk. You are eating your lunch while checking your email. You are a little stressed because you are not sure how you are going to get everything done. A co-worker comes in with a request for information and you realize you don’t know how to provide the data they are requesting.” Tell the story to your audience and end it with the direct question.
- Silence. You will want to give your participants a couple of minutes to think about the answer. Give them time to write down their answers. Those individuals who are introverted will appreciate the time to think before talking.
- Feedback. Next go around your group asking for the answer to your question. Allow one answer per person as this will keep the meeting from being taken over by the “talkers”. Keep going around the room until all feedback is gathered.
Once you have your requirements, take the time to group them together. This process allows you to see if there is a theme in your requirements. If there are areas that have a large number of requirements, this indicates a high priority area which should be tackled early on. To group requirements, take the first requirement and determine in which category it belongs. Then, tale the next requirement and determine if it belongs in that same category or if you need to create a new category. Repeat this process until you have made it through all the requirements.
Once grouping is complete, spend time prioritizing your requirements. You need to determine what is really important to the group. Your time is valuable so you want to make sure you are spending it on something that will bring value to your association. One of the easiest ways to prioritize items is dot voting. Give every person a certain amount of post-it “dots” and allow them to place the dots next to items that they believe are of high importance. They can allocate their dots across multiple requirements, or if they feel strongly about one requirement, they can place all their dots next to that requirement. Prioritizing requirements is incredibly important in order to ensure that you work on the highest priority as determined by the group.
Finally, remember requirements gathering meetings don’t have to be boring! Give participants an opportunity to move during the meeting and not just talk. Have them write things down or stand up to place requirements on a white board or flip chart. Make sure your participants are involved at all times, because if they are busy writing, then they can’t check their email. And always end the meeting with a wrap-up of what you covered and what you are doing with the information they have given you. This will ensure that your requirements meetings generate great ideas and actions that can be immediately taken.