I still remember my first project at ArgonDigital, more than 9 years ago. I struggled with the information flood and came out of that project with at least one clear goal: to get better at acquiring new information. In October, I started on a new project with a new client in an industry new to me. I was able to quickly incorporate new information and turn it into a Business Requirements Document (BRD) in a few weeks. What was the difference?
In the intervening years, ArgonDigital, led by Joy Beatty, has been working diligently on advancing the practice of requirements. And, I’m happy to say, what we’ve been doing really works. I approached my new project with RML®, ArgonDigital’s language for requirements modeling, and OPSD (Objectives, People, System, Data) in mind. The BRD is for a modification to existing software, so my first focus was understanding the existing software. I started with the high-level models and it really worked. In the first 2-3 days I had good drafts of the current state Feature Tree, EcoSystem Map, Business Data Diagram, and High-level Process flow. Creating these RML® models first provided two key benefits to me, the analyst:
- It made it relatively easy to figure out what questions to ask.
- It gave me a structure for storing information and then building upon it.
And, even though I like to think differently, it’s not all about me—these models were great for communicating with the team. One team member commented on how much she loved the pictures (diagrams) in the BRD. Because of the breadth then depth approach, other team members who knew the existing software really well realized there was functionality that would need to change that they hadn’t thought of.
Once I understood everything at a high level, I then dug into detailed process flows. I even created some system flows for a bit more context. With the current state understood, I was able to create future state diagrams clearly showing the modifications. And, of course, once I had the models, deriving the requirements quickly followed (a team member helped with using the models).
If you’re having trouble with information overload like I once did, use the RML models, they work.