top-10-most-common-requirements-elicitation-techniques

Top 10 Most Common Requirements Elicitation Techniques

This Tutorial Explains the Top Requirements Elicitation Techniques in Detail with their Benefits and Drawbacks:

The very first responsibility of a Business Analyst is to gather requirements from the client. Now, the main point that arises here is that how can you gather requirements from the client?

In this article, we are going to answer the above question i.e. we will be discussing requirements elicitation techniques.

  • What Is Requirements Elicitation?
    • Requirements Elicitation Techniques
      • #1) Stakeholder Analysis
      • #2) Brainstorming
      • #3) Interview
      • #4) Document Analysis/Review
      • #5) Focus Group
      • #6) Interface Analysis
      • #7) Observation
      • #8) Prototyping
      • #9) Joint Application Development (JAD)/ Requirement Workshops
      • #10) Survey/Questionnaire
  • Conclusion
    • Recommended Reading

What Is Requirements Elicitation?

It is all about obtaining information from stakeholders. In other words, once the business analysis has communicated with stakeholders for understanding their requirements, it can be described as elicitation. It can also be described as a requirement gathering.

Requirement elicitation can be done by communicating with stakeholders directly or by doing some research, experiments. The activities can be planned, unplanned, or both.

  • Planned activities include workshops, experiments.
  • Unplanned activities happen randomly. Prior notice is not required for such activities. For example, you directly go to the client site and start discussing the requirements however there was no specific agenda published in advance.

Following tasks are the part of elicitation:

  • Prepare for Elicitation: The purpose here is to understand the elicitation activity scope, select the right techniques, and plan for appropriate resources.
  • Conduct Elicitation: The purpose here is to explore and identify information related to change.
  • Confirm Elicitation Results: In this step, the information gathered in the elicitation session is checked for accuracy.

We hope, you have got an idea about requirement elicitation by now. Let’s move on to the requirements elicitation techniques.

Requirements Elicitation Techniques

There are several techniques available for elicitation, however, the commonly used techniques are explained below:

#1) Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholders can include team members, customers, any individual who is impacted by the project or it can be a supplier. Stakeholder analysis is done to identify the stakeholders who will be impacted by the system.

#2) Brainstorming

This technique is used to generate new ideas and find a solution for a specific issue. The members included for brainstorming can be domain experts, subject matter experts. Multiple ideas and information give you a repository of knowledge and you can choose from different ideas.

This session is generally conducted around the table discussion. All participants should be given an equal amount of time to express their ideas.

Brainstorming technique is used to answer the below questions:

  • What is the expectation of a system?
  • What are the risk factors that affect the proposed system development and what to do to avoid that?
  • What are the business and organization rules required to follow?
  • What are the options available to resolve the current issues?
  • What should we do so that this particular issue does not happen in the future?

Brainstorming can be described in the following phases:

Brainstorming

There are some basic rules for this technique which should be followed to make it a success:

  • The time limit for the session should be predefined.
  • Identify the participants in advance. One should include 6-8 members for the session.
  • The agenda should be clear enough for all the participants.
  • Clear expectations should be set with the participants.
  • Once you get all the information, combine the ideas, and remove the duplicate ideas.
  • Once the final list is ready, distribute it among other parties.

Benefits:

  • Creative thinking is the result of the brainstorming session.
  • Plenty of ideas in a short time.
  • Promotes equal participation.

Drawbacks:

  • Participants can be involved in debating ideas.
  • There can be multiple duplicate ideas.

#3) Interview

Interview

This is the most common technique used for requirement elicitation. Interview techniques should be used for building strong relationships between business analysts and stakeholders. In this technique, the interviewer directs the question to stakeholders to obtain information. One to one interview is the most commonly used technique.

If the interviewer has a predefined set of questions then it’s called a structured interview.

If the interviewer is not having any particular format or any specific questions then it’s called an unstructured interview.

For an effective interview, you can consider the 5 Why technique. When you get an answer to all your Whys then you are done with your interview process. Open-ended questions are used to provide detailed information. In this interviewee cannot say Yes or No only.

Closed questions can be answered in Yes or No form and also for areas used to get confirmation on answers.

Basic Rules:

  • The overall purpose of performing the interviews should be clear.
  • Identify the interviewees in advance.
  • Interview goals should be communicated to the interviewee.
  • Interview questions should be prepared before the interview.
  • The location of the interview should be predefined.
  • The time limit should be described.
  • The interviewer should organize the information and confirm the results with the interviewees as soon as possible after the interview.

Benefits:

  • Interactive discussion with stakeholders.
  • The immediate follow-up to ensure the interviewer’s understanding.
  • Encourage participation and build relationships by establishing rapport with the stakeholder.

Drawbacks:

  • Time is required to plan and conduct interviews.
  • Commitment is required from all the participants.
  • Sometimes training is required to conduct effective interviews.

#4) Document Analysis/Review

This technique is used to gather business information by reviewing/examining the available materials that describe the business environment. This analysis is helpful to validate the implementation of current solutions and is also helpful in understanding the business need.

Document analysis includes reviewing the business plans, technical documents, problem reports, existing requirement documents, etc. This is useful when the plan is to update an existing system. This technique is useful for migration projects.

This technique is important in identifying the gaps in the system i.e. to compare the AS-IS process with the TO-BE process. This analysis also helps when the person who has prepared the existing documentation is no longer present in the system.

Document Analysis

Benefits:

  • Existing documents can be used to compare current and future processes.
  • Existing documents can be used as a base for future analysis.

Drawbacks:

  • Existing documents might not be updated.
  • Existing documents might be completely outdated.
  • Resources worked on the existing documents might not be available to provide information.
  • This process is time-consuming.

#5) Focus Group

By using a focus group, you can get information about a product, service from a group. The Focus group includes subject matter experts. The objective of this group is to discuss the topic and provide information. A moderator manages this session.

The moderator should work with business analysts to analyze the results and provide findings to the stakeholders.

If a product is under development and the discussion is required on that product then the result will be to update the existing requirement or you might get new requirements. If a product is ready to ship then the discussion will be on releasing the product.

How Focus groups are different than group interviews?

A Focus group is not an interview session conducted as a group; rather it is a discussion during which feedback is collected on a specific subject. The session results are usually analyzed and reported. A focus group typically consists of 6 to 12 members. If you want more participants then create more than one focus group.

Benefits:

  • You can get information in a single session rather than conducting one to one interview.
  • Active discussion with the participants creates a healthy environment.
  • One can learn from other’s experiences.

Drawbacks:

  • It might be difficult to gather the group on the same date and time.
  • If you are doing this using the online method then the participant’s interaction will be limited.
  • A Skilled Moderator is required to manage focus group discussions.

#6) Interface Analysis

Interface analysis is used to review the system, people, and processes. This analysis is used to identify how the information is exchanged between the components. An Interface can be described as a connection between two components. This is described in the below image:

Interface Analysis

The interface analysis focus on the below questions:

  1. Who will be using the interface?
  2. What kind of data will be exchanged?
  3. When will the data be exchanged?
  4. How to implement the interface?
  5. Why we need the interface? Can’t the task be completed without using the interface?

Benefits:

  • Provide missed requirements.
  • Determine regulations or interface standards.
  • Uncover areas where it could be a risk for the project.

Drawbacks:

  • The analysis is difficult if internal components are not available.
  • It cannot be used as a standalone elicitation activity.

#7) Observation

The main objective of the observation session is to understand the activity, task, tools used, and events performed by others.

The plan for observation ensures that all stakeholders are aware of the purpose of the observation session, they agree on the expected outcomes, and that the session meets their expectations. You need to inform the participants that their performance is not judged.

During the session, the observer should record all the activities and the time taken to perform the work by others so that he/she can simulate the same. After the session, the BA will review the results and will follow up with the participants. Observation can be either active or passive.

Active observation is to ask questions and try to attempt the work that other persons are doing.

Passive observation is silent observation i.e. you sit with others and just observe how they are doing their work without interpreting them.

Benefits:

  • The observer will get a practical insight into the work.
  • Improvement areas can be easily identified.

Drawbacks:

  • Participants might get disturbed.
  • Participants might change their way of working during observation and the observer might not get a clear picture.
  • Knowledge-based activities cannot be observed.

#8) Prototyping

Prototyping is used to identify missing or unspecified requirements. In this technique, frequent demos are given to the client by creating the prototypes so that client can get an idea of how the product will look like. Prototypes can be used to create a mock-up of sites, and describe the process using diagrams.

Benefits:

  • Gives a visual representation of the product.
  • Stakeholders can provide feedback early.

Drawbacks:

  • If the system or process is highly complex, the prototyping process may become time-consuming.
  • Stakeholders may focus on the design specifications of the solution rather than the requirements that any solution must address.

#9) Joint Application Development (JAD)/ Requirement Workshops

This technique is more process-oriented and formal as compared to other techniques. These are structured meetings involving end-users, PMs, SMEs. This is used to define, clarify, and complete requirements.

This technique can be divided into the following categories:

  • Formal Workshops: These workshops are highly structured and are usually conducted with the selected group of stakeholders. The main focus of this workshop is to define, create, refine, and reach closure on business requirements.
  • Business Process Improvement Workshops: These are less formal as compared to the above one. Here, existing business processes are analyzed and process improvements are identified.

Benefits:

  • Documentation is completed within hours and is provided quickly back to participants for review.
  • You can get on the spot confirmation on requirements.
  • Successfully gathered requirements from a large group in a short period.
  • Consensus can be achieved as issues and questions are asked in the presence of all the stakeholders.

Drawbacks:

  • Stakeholder’s availability might ruin the session.
  • The success rate depends on the expertise of the facilitator.
  • A workshop motive cannot be achieved if there are too many participants.

#10) Survey/Questionnaire

For Survey/Questionnaire, a set of questions is given to stakeholders to quantify their thoughts. After collecting the responses from stakeholders, data is analyzed to identify the area of interest of stakeholders.

Questions should be based on high priority risks. Questions should be direct and unambiguous. Once the survey is ready, notify the participants and remind them to participate.

Two types of questions can be used here:

  • Open-Ended: Respondent is given the freedom to provide answers in their own words rather than selecting from predefined responses. This is useful but at the same time, this is time- consuming as interpreting the responses is difficult.
  • Close Ended: It includes a predefined set of answers for all the questions and the respondent has to choose from those answers. Questions can be multiple choice or can be ranked from not important to very important.

Benefits:

  • Easy to get data from a large audience.
  • Less time is required for the participants to respond.
  • You can get more accurate information as compared to interviews.

Drawback:

  • All the Stakeholders might not participate in the surveys.
  • Questions may not be clear to all the participants.
  • Open-ended questions require more analysis.
  • Follow up surveys might be required based on the responses provided by participants.

Amongst the all above techniques, the top five techniques that are commonly used for elicitation are shown in the below image.

five techniques for elicitation

Conclusion

In this tutorial, we have seen various requirements elicitation techniques. Now, it’s time to look at different kinds of interview questions that can be asked about elicitation techniques.

Mentioned below are a few scenarios to help you prepare for the interview:

  • There are multiple divisions in an organization and you are asked to gather requirements for a software system of this organization. There is N number of divisions in the organization and you have to gather requirement from each division. So, as a Business Analyst how will you gather requirements?
  • Have you participated in requirements elicitation techniques? If yes, then which one you think is the most effective and why?
  • What are the major challenges you faced while doing elicitation?

If it’s not too much trouble, attempt to sort out the appropriate responses dependent on your experience, your present undertakings, and put the appropriate responses in the remarks segment. Tell us how you will deal with the above questions.

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