Some of the most important tasks a Business Analyst (BA) performs for a project team include eliciting, gathering, documenting, and analyzing requirements for a project. The technique that I use most when I am playing the role of a BA on a project and need to gather requirements and elicit key information from stakeholders is to organize and facilitate a successful requirements gathering and elicitation meeting. This article documents 10 steps that I recommend you follow as a guideline to help you organize and facilitate a successful requirements gathering and elicitation meeting.
1. Define the Purpose, Goals, and Objectives of the Meeting
Define why you are organizing and scheduling this meeting and what you hope to achieve by holding this requirements gathering and elicitation session. You should have clearly defined goals and objectives that state why this meeting is taking place. Your stakeholders should have a clear understanding of why they have been invited and why they should attend this meeting to help you elicit the requirements for this project.
2. Determine Who Should Attend the Meeting
Invite the subject matter experts and all key stakeholders that play an important role in helping you gather and elicit the requirements needed for your project. It is important to only invite those that are necessary to attend and add value to the meeting. One common problem I see in the business world is people attend too many meetings that they really should never have been invited with to begin with. Every meeting costs time and money so try your best to only invite those that will be actively participating in the meeting and contribute to your requirements gathering.
3. Create a Detailed Agenda for the Meeting
Think about all the topics you would like to touch on when you have your stakeholders present for this important requirements gathering meeting. The agenda should be put together in a logical order. A great agenda will encourage a lot of discussion from all stakeholders attending the meeting that will help you elicit the requirements you are seeking. Create a list of questions before the meeting that will help guide your meeting when you touch on various topics.
4. Determine the Appropriate Time Length of the Meeting
Once you have a list of topics for your agenda, try to estimate how much time you want to spend talking about each of those discussion points. When facilitating the meeting, stick to the budgeted amount of time around each talking point. This will also help you gauge how you are doing for time as the meeting goes on. If you find an agenda item that needs additional time, document this and you can always follow up on this discussion point. Remember to budget time for an introduction and conclusion for each meeting. Also try to end your meetings 5-10 minutes early if possible as this gives time for your meeting attendees to get to another meeting if they have one that immediately follows.
5. Determine the Best Meeting Format and Location
Are most of your attendees in the same location or are they working remotely or at different locations? Should this be a conference call meeting or are you able to gather all meeting attendees in the same room in one common location? Do you have a slide show presentation or do you plan to review flow charts, use cases, or any other visual aids that will assist with your meeting? These are the questions you should ask yourself when determining the best meeting format and location.
6. Send Out the Meeting Invite and Agenda Several Days in Advance
Send out your meeting invite and agenda several days before the requirements gathering and elicitation meeting is to occur. I am a strong believer that you should have your meeting agenda well thought out and documented before you schedule the meeting. After all, how would you know how much time you should schedule, and what you will be discussing in the meeting if you haven’t thought about this at least several days in advance? This is also a great time to send out a pre-defined list of questions and discussion points that you plan to discuss in the meeting. If your stakeholders have a list of questions and have a better idea of what will be discussed at the meeting, they likely will come to the meeting more prepared to answer your questions. The goal is to gather as many requirements as you can when you have these stakeholders present, so plant the seed and have them thinking about information you are looking to gather before the meeting occurs.
7. Facilitate and Lead the Meeting
When the meeting day arrives, you should facilitate and lead the meeting using the agenda you sent out and you will have a lot of key responsibilities as the meeting facilitator. The facilitator should be responsible for making sure that the conversation stays on task and within the allotted time set forth in the agenda. The facilitator should establish meeting ground rules that the participants follow. Only one meeting participant should speak at a time and all participants should remember they are there to work as a team. Facilitators should make sure that everyone is contributing and manage any conflicts that arise and encourage resolution on all issues. Most importantly, the facilitator should be a great listener and absorb all the thoughts and information the meeting attendees are discussing during the requirements gathering meeting.
8. Document and Summarize Action Items
The meeting facilitator may also act as the note taker for the meeting or else assign a scribe to document meeting notes. It is important to listen and document all action items that come from the requirements gathering and elicitation meeting. These action items should be recapped and summarized during the conclusion of the meeting. Meeting participants may be responsible for owning some action items and following up with the meeting facilitator. Future meetings may arise as a result of these action items.
9. Send Out a Meeting Summary
Shortly after the meeting is over, the meeting organizer should send out a detailed summary of the main points and action item outcomes. Focus on documenting the conclusions drawn from the meeting and send out the meeting summary within two business days while the meeting is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Meeting summary documentation can prove to be important if there are any disagreements or conflicts later on as you will have a baseline to reference if needed.
10. Follow Up on Action Items and Schedule Additional Meetings as Necessary
In a perfect world, we would schedule one requirements gathering and elicitation meeting and elicit all the requirements needed for the project. However, we often see certain action items lead to additional meetings that will need to be scheduled as a result of the conclusions from your last meeting. Sometimes you will find that you simply need more time to gather requirements from the same set of stakeholders. If that is the case, start over at step one and repeat the ten steps to organize and facilitate another successful requirements gathering and elicitation meeting.
Successfully Gather and Elicit Requirements from Stakeholders
Organizing and facilitating a successful requirements gathering and elicitation meeting requires a lot of thought, planning, and execution. Follow the 10 steps I documented above to organize and facilitate a successful requirements gathering and elicitation meeting. The 10 steps will serve as a guideline that you can use repeatedly for your projects to successfully gather and elicit requirements from your stakeholders.