When projects are accused of poor requirements gathering, the accusation is normally false.  The requirements gathered end up solid, but project gets exposed to additional costs because of the requirements that get lost.

To facilitate any type of descriptive or prescriptive build-out of a process or series of activities, and to prevent omissions, use a structured approach to understanding the complete Use Story.  Groups have a tendency to forget activities or events that occur less frequently, particularly activities that support planning and control.  This session provides a structured life-cycle support approach to squeeze out potential omissions.  Structure solidifies requirements gathering when relying on a a proven method:

Method

Structured Requirements Gathering

Structured Requirements Gathering

Therefore, the developmental support steps for requirements gathering include:

  • Determine the business purpose of the process or functional area.  Strongly suggest using the “Purpose is to . . . “ tool.
  • Next is the first activity of the brainstorming method—List.  Label the top of the flip chart with “VERB NOUN” and ask the group to identify all the activities that do or would support the business purpose created in the prior step.  Enforce the listing and capture them only as Verb-Noun pairings.
  • Use the Plan➠Acquire➠Operate➠Control life cycle to help stimulate thinking about what activities may be missing.
  • You should find one to two planning, one to two acquiring, bunches of operating, and at least one to two controlling activities for each business process or scope of work.
  • After identifying the various activities (sometimes called “sub-processes” by others), convert the verb-noun pairings into “use cases” or some form of input-process-output.  Build one use-case for each pairing.
  • Consider assigning the SIPOC tables (a form of use case) to sub-teams.  Demonstrate one in its entirety with the whole group and then break them out into two or three groups.
  • For each activity, build a narrative statement that captures the purpose of the activity, why it is being performed, then:
  1. Continue to identify the specific outputs or what changes as a result of having completed the activity.
  2. Link the outputs with the customer or client of each; ie, who is using each output.
  3. Next identify the inputs required to perform the activity.
  4. Finally identify the sources of the inputs.

An illustrative SIPOC chart is shown below.  SIPOC stands for the Source of the input, Input(s) required to complete the activity, Process (ie, our activity), Output resulting from the activity, and Customer or client of the output.

Summary of steps to be included in this sequence 

  1. Identify the activity (ie, process).  Agree on its purpose and how the activity performed supports the purpose.
  2. Detail HOW it is or should be performed.
  3. List the outputs from the completed activity.
  4. Link the outputs to the respective clients or customers.
  5. List the inputs needed to complete the activity.
  6. Identify the source(s) for each of the inputs.

Success Keys

Consequently, use a visual illustration or template to build clear definitions of “requirements”.  Additionally,

  • Have the group pre-build all the potential sources and customers of the process and code them so that when you build the SIPOC tables; the group can refer to the code letter/ number instead of the full name (thus substantially speeding up the method).  As you discover new sources or customers, simply add them.
  • Keep quiet (ie, ‘shut up’) after asking questions (seek to understand rather than be understood).
  • Write down participant response immediately and fully.
  • Provide visual feedback, preferably through modeling.
  • Advance from activity identification to the inputs and outputs required to support the activity; then associate each with its sources and clients (SIPOC).
  • Separate the WHAT from the HOW.

Simple Agenda

You may consider using this method with a simple agenda that could look like:

  • Introduction
  • Purpose of __________
  • Activities (NOTE: Take each “Thing” and ask—“What do you do with this thing ?”—forcing “Verb-Noun” pairings.  Test for omissions using the Plan ➺ Acquire ➺ Operate ➺ Control prompting)
  • Value-Add (ie, SIPOC)
  • Walkthrough
  • Wrap

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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