How to Prepare for Requirements Sessions with Your Users – Tip 1

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This is the first part of a four part series on how to prepare for software requirement sessions to be most effective with your users’ time (and yours!).

Can You Get All of Your Requirements In One Session?
There is general agreement in the software industry that talking to end users to gather requirements is critical to the success of the project. However, a common issue is that users are particularly busy. For example, if an organization decides to add features to a call center application, talking to the call center representatives is critical, but it’s also costly to pull them away from taking calls. In addition, requirements analysts are extremely busy and may have to limit how much time they spend with any one user.

A common issue in gathering requirements is leaving a stakeholder meeting where you missed major requirements because the “next question” to ask did not occur to you at the time. It is unreasonable to think that this will never happen. The reality of software requirements efforts is that they are iterative. In addition, there is quite a bit of critical analysis that must take place, and that analysis cannot always happen immediately in a meeting environment. Whatever the reason, there is certainly a need to get the most out of time spent with the users. So how do you best prepare for meetings with your end users?

Software Requirements Sessions Tip 1: Organize Your Time

Requirements analysts should realize that the software requirements life cycle can be time intensive – including time to analyze, edit, review, and update. The key is to maximize the value from everyone’s time.

Make sure that requirements sessions are well planned, inviting the minimal group of people necessary to get value out of the meeting. The burden of extra time spent should be on the requirements analyst, not the users who are being taken away from their primary jobs. Prepare an agenda and appropriate artifacts prior to the sessions in order to keep the meeting focused on making valuable progress.

In dealing with any super-users who are unable to commit much time, it is important to zero in on specifically what information they must provide. Then allow these users to suggest alternative users to meet with to provide additional information, ensuring them you will allow them to review what the alternative users provided.

Come back soon for part 2!

How do you prepare for a requirements session? I’d love to hear your answer in the comments.

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