Requirements sessions is a key activity that business analysts need to perform.
In this video, I offer three pointers on how to run better requirements sessions.
In this video, I want to talk about requirements sessions and very specifically I want to talk about some of the things that you can do.
To make sure that your requirements sessions are effective and that they that they go well.
So first what I want to do is I want to talk to you a little bit about what requiring sessions are. And then I’m going to offer you a couple of pointers that are going to help you. So throughout a project, there are different stages of the project itself. And then within the analysis portion of those stages, there are different activities they have to take part in or that you have to execute as part of making sure that the analysis portion of the project gets done. Requirements sessions are one of those activities and there are one of the key activities because that is one of the places where you have. The opportunity to clarify and elicit and analyze the requirements. OK. So basically what happens is the way that you do requirements typically is that you determine the scope. And then what you do is you refine the scope all throughout the analysis portion of the project. OK. When you’re refining the scope you have to make sure that you can meet with the right stakeholders. So that. A lot of the requirements that you have are being refined down the right path. And I’ll talk about that process a lot more but let’s talk very specifically about what requirements sessions are. I’m actually on my way to a client site for requirements section right now and that’s part of the reason why I wanted to talk about this. So tip number one that I would have is that you have to do your homework. OK. The second thing that I want to talk about is that you have to make sure that you’ve chosen the right tools. And number three I want to talk about a very specific tool that I call handouts meaning handouts. And it seems like a very simple thing but I’m when I talk about why you should always have meaning handouts in the meeting. OK so. Let’s talk about doing your homework before you even plan out or attend the session. There is that is when the majority of your work should be happening. OK I’ll say it again because this is very very important and it’s a point that I think a lot of new business analysts don’t. Necessarily catch on to right away. Is that the majority of the work. For Euro climbing session happens outside of the meeting itself. So, for example, the meeting that I’m going through right now is two hours long. I have done at least. Four hours of prep work and even more than that if you take into account a lot of the stuff that’s led up to this. But I’ve done this morning I’ve done at least four hours of prep work before I go in. And after this meeting I’m probably going to do another two hours of work to make sure that I’ve captured everything right. OK so that should hit the point home that. The majority of your work. That happens for a rock climbing session happens mostly before and a little bit after. OK so when I say do your homework. That’s what I’m talking about. Is all of the work that you have to do before you show up to a session. So what kind of work is it. You should never ever show up to a requirement session empty handed and expect people to tell you what the requirements are or to start speaking about a certain area of business. OK. That’s going in court. You’re going in called into a meeting. And the chances of that meeting working out well are extremely low however it is something that you analysts who don’t have a lot of experience tend to do a lot of because they see the requirements meeting as the starting point of the process. That is not the starting point of your path since you made. You should be midway through a lot of the stuff that you’re working out before you actually show up to the requirements section.
OK. So do your homework. Which means no one. You should have some clarity of what the scope of the project is. So you should not be going into the meeting saying. OK tell me what you want or what should be in school for this project. Those conversations typically happen well before you get into detailed requirements session. OK. The people that you have those types of conversation with typically are the project sponsor. That’s usually the best place to start. The person who’s funding the project at the management level they’re going to give you some ideas of what they think is needed. Right. And what you’re gonna do is you’re going to. That becomes basically the seed for the scope of your project. Right. And so when you have the seed then you can detail it out to a couple of bullet points. Could be some system functionality you could be something else but essentially what you do is you make sure you’ve had a lot of those conversations before you step foot into the first requirements session that you had. Because. If you’re talking down at the user level in most cases and you don’t have clarity on the scope you can start to spin because they might ask for things. And right there in the meeting you don’t have the ability to say that I think that they that may be out of scope for a project. OK so the scope is very very important depending on where you are in the requirements process. On my project right now I’m very deep into it so I have a lot of material to go in with. But when I first started off this project a couple of months ago the material I was going into my requirements sessions with was a lot thinner. But. You have to make sure that you have the subject matter that you need to discuss clearly outlined. And when I talk about hand doesn’t want to talk about the agenda and what type of things you should do in your agenda. The other part of doing your homework is to make sure. That you understand. Who the stakeholders are that are attending the session and when I say who they are. I don’t mean just the name and the rule. What I mean is that you have to get a little bit of background on who the person is. Possibly what some of their history some of the relevant history to your project on this project might be. So for example if you’re going in to meet with a user who has been managing cases for example. It’s very important for you to know that this person has been working at the company for the last 10 years and they’ve worked for four different lines of business and that’s the type of input that they’re gonna be coming into the meeting with. It’s important for you to know who the person is what kind of history that they have. And if you can get to the really important information about a person you want to get some insight into. What kind of issues this person is likely to be concerned with. Because what that does for you is that it starts to help you identify preemptively start to identify some of the issues that they may raise in the meeting. And so as part of your prep work you want you can start to do as you can already start to think through some of that stuff and maybe start to formulate some answers in advance. And that’s why you need to do a lot of the prep work as part of your home. All right. So knowing who’s attending the meetings is very very important knowing what angle that they’re coming to the project from. It’s very very important. That in itself if you don’t do those things what you’re doing is you’re going into the meeting called. And you’re going to be caught off guard over and over and over again because people might start discussing subjects that you might not. Have been necessarily ready to discuss. Or people will come to things from an angle that you might not even think about and you might not have a lot of answers for some of the questions that they have right up front. Show us your tools and choose your tools very wisely. Now again at the beginning of the project it can be it can be a little bit difficult if you don’t know who the stakeholders are. Hey. When I say choose your tools I’m talking very very specifically about two different things that you’re gonna use. No one is what I like to call the primary display. So. When you’re in the room. Where is everybody’s focus gonna be directed. That is what I call the primary display. A lot of times it’s a projector on the screen where you’re showing the material that’s on your laptop. That’s a very common one. Another one is that you could have a whiteboard where you walk into the meeting earlier and you drive a couple of things that explains kind of sets the framework for the rest of the meeting and kind of you could actually put your agenda on there. But a lot of times what I do with whiteboards is that I use it to draw out conceptual diagrams especially if there is a if it’s a data heavy project. There’s a lot of conceptual. Analysis that needs to be done and I draw those things so that we can have a meaningful discussion about it. When the meeting starts so make sure that you’ve chosen the primary display. If you have video on your laptop and you have diagrams that you need to show you have to make sure that that is the right tool that you’ve chosen. If it’s subject matter that’s very tense. Typically what you want to do is you want to try to stay away from Visio like I use video for many years over time but since I’ve started using whiteboards to do the work that that portion of the requirements work. I’ve realized that people tend to stay with you a lot longer. If you’re if they’re with you on the journey of trying things out it’s one step at a time on a whiteboard versus just putting up a diagram a visual diagram on the screen. So those type of things all helped to make you and your requirements such in school a lot more a lot more smoothly.
Secondary display. When. The participants attention is not on the primary display what are they looking at. Where are they paying attention. That is very important again because. If we need. To get to the bottom of important answers. You have to be able to retain people’s attention in these sessions. Hey if you lose people’s attention if people start just you know dozing off or not paying attention a lot of the things that you need to get out of that session are not are not going to happen. You might have to schedule another one or you might. Have lower quality requirements as a result. The second just that they talk about is what I mean by handouts. You should always have. A secondary. Display in the form of handouts because there are many things that a handout does for you in a session that you would have to do yourself if you did not have those handouts. So no one. Is that having handouts that you give to a person. Almost immediately takes that attention away from you and onto the subject matter. So instead of the person or the set of people in the room. Looking to you to start talking right at the beginning of the session what they start to do typically is they start to flip through the handles that you have because they want to understand what some of the subject matter that needs to be discussed in detail are. Immediately what that does for you. And this is important for you if you’re especially if you’re new and if you’re nervous in running these sets of sessions. Having a hand out. Takes their attention away from you. So that you can compose yourself right at the beginning of the meeting and that you can start to lead the session by pointing different things out in the handout. Take. The amount of pressure that that takes off of your shoulders right from the get-go is hugely beneficial. It is hugely beneficial. The second thing that the handouts do is that as you’re having the conversation throughout. The meetings. What you can do is you can start to refer to the different parts of the handout at different points in the conversation. What that does for you is that it reduces the cognitive load. Right. And what I mean by cognitive load basically is that it reduces a number of things that you have to memorize because if it’s a especially again if there’s a dense subjects on tough projects you trying to memorize all of the details that need to be talked about. Is going to weigh you down it’s going to wear out your level of energy throughout the session trying to recall things all the time. And so the other thing that you’re handouts do for you is that they let you take all of that memory that you would have had to have put it in the document and when somebody asks a question you say well hold on a second I think I have this. Subject you’re asking about covered on page number four. Let’s flip to. Right. That in itself again is a. Very effective strategy a very effective strategy.
To help you reduce the load that you have to deal with reduce the pressure and reduce the load. And what that does is it frees you up to stop facilitating the conversation. And many people when they start to go through the handouts almost immediately you’ll start to see that there are a lot more interest because chances are they’ve seen something that they’re interested in talking about in one of the handouts and so they just can’t wait to get to it. All right. Your handout should always. Have. The first page of your handout should always be an agenda. So what you do at the beginning of your requirements session is that you review the agenda before you discuss anything in detail. You review the agenda and you always ask the question. Is there anything we should add into this agenda before we start the session. What that does for you, is that it makes sure, It makes sure that any concerns that the person might have coming into the meeting gets addressed immediately. Right.
Give them a place holder in the agenda so that they’re not feeling anxious throughout the meeting and that they’re not always feeling like they have to jump in into a conversation because they know that the things that are on their mind are going to get discussed when you get to that agenda item. So you display the agenda and you very specifically ask Is there anything else we should be adding to this agenda before we move on. If you follow these tips. The climate sessions that you hold are guaranteed to go a lot more smoothly. A lot of new analysts I think make a lot of. Assumptions about what requirements sessions are and those assumptions don’t always match the expectations of the participants who are attending the sessions and so the more homework that you do the better you get at choosing the right tools and the better you become at reducing the load on your own shoulders throughout the session.
All three of those things is going to help you in making sure that you’re you’re getting what you need out of those requirement sessions if you’re interested in learning more about business analysis I’m going to encourage you to go over to the website. I learned thatB.A. We have a number of articles that have been published there and we are starting to publish a lot of these videos and other videos that we have from our training program onto the Web site for everybody to watch. There is plenty of material there for you to learn and please feel free to comment and ask questions if there are things in there.