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Requirement Elicitation Techniques: A step-by-step guide

Requirement elicitation is more than simply asking “what are the most important features in product X?”. Stakeholders frequently have ideas, wants or needs floating in the back of their minds, but these may not be clear, even to themselves. So, it’s the job of requirements elicitor to draw these out of the stakeholders and help them articulate their vision, as well as their understanding of the end product.

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In the digital era, the demand for product and service innovation moves at breakneck speed. Between the technological shift towards machine learning and the mass proliferation of smartphone users, which will reach 3.8 billion by 2021, customers  want increasingly better products or services in near-real-time. But, what does “better” actually mean?

Enter requirement elicitation, a structured and detailed method for determining all relevant stakeholders’ definitions of “better.” Requirement elicitation is more than simply asking “what are the most important features in product X?”. Stakeholders frequently have ideas, wants or needs floating in the back of their minds, but these may not be clear, even to themselves. So, it’s the job of requirement elicitor to draw these out of the stakeholders and help them articulate their vision, as well as their understanding of the end product. 

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Why is Requirement Elicitation Important?

Product development is a cost-intensive process; this holds true whether your goal is as seemingly simple as developing a mobile app or more involved in terms of time and materials such as developing an autonomous vehicle. Moreover, if the end-user has no use for the product, then it will have a high likelihood of failure (or if the autonomous vehicle is poorly constructed, then there are serious risks involved).

 

Added to the end-user consideration is an ever-increasing number of local, national, and international laws. There are numerous data protection laws throughout the world including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and newer regulations in the U.S. such as those seen in Colorado and California. Violating these data privacy laws comes with stiff penalties and additional costs that very few enterprises can afford.

 

Between the high probability of project failure and the quick shifts in consumer demand, along with a myriad of regulations and laws that loom over every industry, requirement elicitation will help you increase project success.

Requirement Elicitation – Step by Step

These can be tweaked to suit your particular project, but there are a few must-haves such as a business case (which includes a situation statement and the product scope), and a stakeholder register that will organize and detail the who, what, where, when, why, and how of your requirement elicitation system.

Requirement Elicitation Inputs: Before you begin

You need to know the “what” and the “why” of the product. As such, if you haven’t already done so, and you want to make sure your requirement elicitation is going to produce accurate results, it’s wise for you to clearly identify the need or opportunity for the deployment of a new product/service by creating a business case.

 

The business case doesn’t need to be a multi-page research paper. It can be as simple as a short statement that contains the current/future/goal state, a description of the problem you’re solving or the opportunity you’re focused on leveraging and a rough draft of a product (or service) development roadmap. 

 

Nothing is set in stone, meaning most products or services (except for major real asset development such as building a home or mass producing widgets) are developed via iterations. So, the business case is iterative and may shift as your stakeholders reveal aspects of the product that haven’t yet been considered. 

Stakeholder Analysis: A Non-Negotiable Input

Stakeholder analysis is crucial since you’ll be communicating with these stakeholders during your requirement elicitation process. Indeed, how else will you know the “who” of the project if you don’t know who your stakeholders are, their level of involvement in the project, and how to contact them? As a general rule, you’ll likely have a relatively standard list of stakeholders that include, but are not limited to:

Creating a Stakeholder Register doesn’t need to be arduous. Creating a simple spreadsheet will suffice and should have, at the very least, the following information:

You can continue to use the spreadsheet format and expand upon it to incorporate useful information for future elicitation. This could include elicitation techniques you used that yielded the most stakeholder information, or your analysis of stakeholder responses during the requirement elicitation process. 

For tips on how to write a requirements document that conforms to these specifications, check out our ultimate guide to Writing an Exceptionally Clear Requirements Document.

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