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Key Questions Every Business Requirement Must Answer

Posted by Stacy Head on Jun 17, 2013 11:11:48 AM

As per the IIBA BABOK Guide, the role of the Business Analyst is to understand an organization and “recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals.” To fulfill that role, one of the crucial activities in business analysis is eliciting and capturing business requirements. Business requirements must focus on defining WHAT the business needs to accomplish in order to be successful irrespective of a supporting system or technology. In contrast, system requirements can be developed during implementation of a technology solution to describe HOW a technology solution will meet the business requirements. To be successful, business requirements must be elicited and documented so that they define the benchmark for measuring whether any proposed or implemented solution meets the business needs.

A quality business requirement is one that can be used to effectively evaluate and implement solutions. To do so, each business requirement must answer the following key questions.

1. What is the objective?

Each business requirement must contain a clear definition of what the business needs to achieve. The documented results of the requirement should establish an unambiguous measurement as to whether the requirement has been met. In addition to the specific business objective of the requirement, make sure to capture any additional qualifications for the requirement, such as timing or exceptions. These criteria will provide the basis for solution selection and feed nicely into the definition of functional and non-functional system requirements and acceptance criteria for a final solution.

Questions to ask:

  • How do you know when you are done?
  • How do you know you are correct?
  • Who consumes the output? What do they need? When do they need it?

2. Who are ALL of the stakeholders?

There are three important types of stakeholders to capture with each requirement.

  • Who provided the requirement? Always record the name, role and contact information for the person who provided the requirement.
  • Who owns the requirement? This may not always be the same person/role that provided the requirement to you. Often representatives are chosen to provide requirements on behalf of a group. The requirement owner is the person/role in the business who is responsible for meeting that requirement.
  • Who else has a stake in the requirement? Are there any other stakeholders who are providers or consumers to the requirement?

All three types of stakeholders need to be documented so that they can be involved in validating the final documented requirement, contacted for follow up with any further detailed questions that arise, and informed of any changes to the requirement.

Questions to ask:

  • What needs to be complete before this function can be performed, and by whom?
  • Who would be impacted if the requirement is not met?
  • Who monitors or receives notice on its status?

3. What is the Business Value?

The most important thing to understand and capture in a business requirement is how it provides the organization business value. Every requirement must have a documented impact on revenue, cost, regulatory constraint or a specific business goal (like customer service). If no one can define how a business requirement impacts their business, it is likely not actually required. Capturing the specific business benefits of a requirement during elicitation provides multiple benefits, including:

  • Focusing discussions on the WHAT instead of the HOW. It is important not to capture how the business performs a function using a current system or solution, but what it is they are trying to achieve and why.
  • Enlightening employees of their impact to the organization’s success. Often new hires are trained to execute standard, repeatable processes without ever learning why they do each of the steps. Business requirements elicitation is a great opportunity to push them to discover and understand why each part of their work is important and how it feeds into the overall business goals of the company.
  • Highlighting the priority of each requirement. Documented business value provides the basis for requirement prioritization. Understanding the value of each requirement and its actual or relative size provides objective justification for requirements prioritization during solution selection or development.

Questions to ask during elicitation:

  • Five Whys: Ask “Why?” at least five times to drive out the true business purpose of each requirement.
  • What would be the impact if a specific step or function was not performed? Who would notice and why?
  • What is the business value compared to the other business requirements? Compare each requirement to each other or use T-shirt sizing (S, M, L, XL).

To make sure you are answering each of these key questions when eliciting business requirements, consider creating yourself a checklist or updating your requirements template. Find a method that fits into your requirements elicitation approach to ensure that documented and validated expected results, key stakeholders, and business value are mandatory information for each requirement.

Quality business requirements provide the foundation for solution selection by defining a clear definition of the organization or business unit’s goals. To provide substantiated recommendations on solutions that will contribute to your organization’s success, always document every business requirement with a measurable objective, a complete list of stakeholders, and evident business value. Gathering and documenting these key pieces of information upfront will provide clarity and save time during the solution selection, implementation, and testing phases of the project.


Topics: Business Analysis

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