Engaging with the right stakeholders is vital to facilitating accurate requirements gathering.

It is often said in project circles that 90% of projects fail because the requirements are not properly documented from the outset. Successful transformation programs, on the other hand – in fact, any project – always have one thing in common and that is that accurate business requirements are well understood by all major stakeholders.

So how can you ensure that you have the right requirements?

Effective requirements gathering

The role of the Business Analyst (BA) is to ensure that functional and non-functional requirements are clearly identified, so that proposed solutions meet and can be traced to the needs of the business.

BAs will engage a number of different stakeholders across the enterprise to ensure that all relevant viewpoints are accurately captured and represented within requirements. The Project Governance board, and ultimately the Project Sponsor, will then confirm which requirements will be delivered. Then the solution will be traced back to ensure they meet what has been requested. As we know not all requirements will be met.

Typically there are three groups of stakeholders that will be consulted as part of the requirements definition process, which we will now look at in turn.

Internal Stakeholders

Internal stakeholders are the key people who have a direct interest (and impact) in the change effected by the project and typically include:

  • Project sponsor The person who has been entrusted by the organisation to deliver the benefits of the project to the business. They are one of the most important stakeholders to elicit requirements from, as their requirements should ultimately translate into direct project benefits. Ultimately the Project Sponsor signs off on “What Success Looks Like” for the project. All requirements must be traceable against this.
  • Business unit managers – These stakeholders are senior management within the organisation whose areas are directly impacted. Their viewpoint must be captured and clearly understood, so that the requirements reflect what needs to be delivered to achieve the business benefits.
  • SMEs & Power Users These are very important stakeholders from whom the detailed requirements must be elicited. These end users execute the current business processes, whether they are manual processes or embedded within existing systems and their requirements must be clearly interpreted and documented, as they will be the ultimate users of any new systems implemented to support the business transformation.

Technical stakeholders

Technical stakeholders are the teams and leadership responsible for the development, implementation and operational support of new systems implemented to enable the business transformation. This will typically include:

  • Development team These are key stakeholders whom the BA must work with closely if the business requirements are to be transformed into code that will drive the functionality of the new systems.
  • Testing team – The BA needs to provide the test team with access to the requirement traceability matrix (RTM) to ensure the test cases can be traced back to each original business requirement and each one validated.
  • Solution architect(s) – The BA must work with the architects in the effort to align the requirements towards the finalised end-to-end solution. This can be a very fluid process and may need regular iterations.
  • BAU support teams – An important stakeholder group worthy of inclusion into the requirements elicitation process, so as to consider operational (‘Run’) and non-functional (also known as quality) requirements. These teams and their management, will offer insight and can provide detailed technical information that can allow for the systems to be maintained and supported post the project’s transition across to BAU.

External stakeholders

External stakeholders typically have a vested interest in a project but aren’t directly involved in the development or implementation. They can, however, be affected downstream when the new system is operational and may be in many different domain areas or groups that can vary greatly in composition.

Typically this may include regulatory or compliance groups that impose strict rules or specific requirements parameters, such as the use of a specific software standard, to ensure conformity across an industry sector.

A senior enterprise BA may need to participate in industry forums and working groups to ensure that there is precise capture of these requirements for the benefit of the organisation.

Engaging the right people

Engaging across these stakeholder groups is vital for the successful gathering of business requirements, whatever the project or program may be.

However aside from identifying the key groups within a business, ensuring that the BA engages the correct people and requisite expertise early will increase the probability of more accurate business requirements.

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