Part 1: Collecting Requirements: How to


Collect requirements tools & techniques1Take a quick look at the interesting and very useful tools for Collecting Project Requirements.

In this post we shall look tools on the right side of this mind map.

Let us look at an example, first.

Acme Hospitals wanted to build a patient health data management system. Alpha Software Solutions got the project and put Dean in charge of the project as project manager. Dean got the project charter, got hold of stakeholder register and started of on collecting requirements.


Dean first figured out that he needs to talk to health data entry operators, doctors, lab technicians, healthcare facility chiefs, third party data providers, healthcare standard database providers, insurance company data keepers, HIPAA compliance verifiers, patients, and their kins – all stakeholders in this project – to understand more about the data, and how is it required to be captured, stored, transferred and archived. Dean executed some of the tools and techniques from the mind map below –

tools & techniques collect requirementsFigure 1: Tools and Techniques of Collect Requirements Process

Interviews

His first step is to interview carefully selected set of people to understand how this data is captured and consumed. He decided to meet them one-on-one. He prepared a pre-determined set of questions for each type of stakeholders that he is going to meet.

Brain storming with focus groups

Next, Dean decided to talk to a focus group of doctors to understand things like what kind of time they can spare to provide examination data of their patients, how is this data being provided currently, and what can be the best format for their own consumption. He needed to understand different challenges faced by doctors across geographies and medical disciplines dealing with healthcare data and he had to moderate the discussion.

Facilitating stakeholders to arrive at requirements

Further, Dean decided to conduct a facilitated workshop of insurance company data keepers, healthcare standard data providers and HIPAA compliance verifiers – to figure out the challenges of data storage, security, transmission and archival. This was a cross-functional group and they had some difference of opinion concerning the security of data, and Dean needed to understand them. His other intention was to make them feel better about working with each other, so when he gets to integrate the systems he will get their cooperation as well as collaboration amongst themselves. During the course of the workshop he figured out some inherent challenges that none of the parties by themselves were aware of.

Group techniques

Brainstorming – Dean decided to employ couple of group creativity techniques. He first got a group of hospital data entry staff and the lab technicians to understand the common, basic data format they can agree to have. They brainstormed for several sessions of hour and a half each over three days, and at the end of it Dean had a bunch of alternative data formats.

Nominal group technique is where a group of stakeholders are allowed to generate ideas silently. Then listed ideas are discussed as a group, voted and prioritized. The top ideas are then considered for action. This is a facilitator driven group decision making technique.

Nominal group techniqueFigure 2: Nominal group technique for quick decision making by the team

Idea/mind mapping

…is a way to facilitate idea flow while capturing them as a mind map. You will see several mind maps on this blog to represent an idea easily. Mind maps help mind understand information quickly and recall it easily.

Dean collected all the ideas received from previous interactions with the stakeholders and created several mind maps – of data formats, archival strategies, and data transfer mechanism. Seeing them using a top-down approach helped him refine some of the better ideas, and see the pros and cons of all ideas at one go.

Affinity diagrams

Dictionary meaning of affinity, “a natural attraction or feeling of kinship” itself describes what this stands for. When you have a large bunch of ideas this method is used to categorize them.

  • Write an idea each on a card (or postIt)
  • Go through each, look at each of the cards and see if it looks related to another idea
  • Combine similar looking ideas together till all cards are used up

Once completed, these categories can be used to create cause-and-effect diagrams.

The term Affinity diagram was devised by Jiro Kawakita, so this technique is also known as KJ method.

Multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA)

This is an Operations Research tool that helps you evaluate multiple conflicting criteria to arrive at a decision. This involves representing problem in criterion space or decision space, generating non-dominated solutions (where all criteria carry equal weightage) and selecting the suitable solution.

We went through some of the tools and techniques of Collect Requirements process – interviews, focused groups, facilitated workshops and group creativity techniques. These are the ones on the right side of the mind map above. We shall see the remaining four in the next post.
What are some of the tools and techniques you have used to collect requirements, and do you have any recommendations?

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