Requirements Gathering Techniques

Subject: [Sigia-l] Interesting & Effective Requirements Gathering Techniques?
“I’m looking for interesting techniques for the requirements gathering of internal applications… specifically ones that involve levels of participatory design (our users are in-house and will participate as cross functional team members). We’ll be conducting traditional JAD sessions and paper prototyping, but I’m interested in other ideas that have been effective and possibly even “fun.” Thanks!~Susan Rice User Experience Lead for Strategic Applications VistaPrint ..”

My reply..
At the risk of over simplification, the effectiveness of participatory design techniques is very much contingent on the attitude towards participation within the organization. Some questions to consider:

  • Is there a genuine sense that the people performing the work are best able to structure themselves and their teams?
  • Is there clear communication of organizational strategy so that individuals can explicitly link their efforts to that larger picture?
  • How will the organization handle ideas which are critical of current operations and the executive/management thinking behind them?
  • Are organizational ‘fun’ events perceived by staff and by management as genuine rewards in addition to adequate financial compensation or are they used to take the edge off frustrations or over-work?

If your internal assessment indicates that there is a climate of genuine consultation, decision sharing and reward, then you can safely move to more fun type of PD techniques. If not, they may backfire; and I’d advise you to stay within the more ‘traditional’ JAD/RAD approaches.

The more ‘fun’ oriented techniques also require a solid group leader who can coax and encourage creativity through verbal, artistic and game-playing techniques. Often not likely to be the same skilled team leader or analyst doing more traditional requirements analysis.

Generally, these techniques all aim to go beyond the specifics to uncover mindsets, motivations, and visionary thinking. They tend to open new possibilities.

Some techniques to consider:

  •  Create a collage around the current experience of [specific function, task, project, etc.] and then create another around what you’d like it to be. (team exercise using any available artifacts – except UI elements)
  • Individual story telling: My best and worst experience using a system….(nothing with current work). Each person describes, self analyzes and others encouraged to probe. Leader guides group discussion to tie back into current project.
  • Give each team of 3 a small item to assemble (science toy, model, childs toy,etc). No instructions except that one person does the work, the other provides the instruction verbally and responds to queries, the third silently photographs and records key comments and observations. Focus on the nature of the task, quality of written and spoken instructions, nature of questions asked and the evolving process through pictures taken. After individual presentations entire group analyzes for patterns in relationship between tasks, questions, instructions, and efficacy of outcomes. Leader guides group discussion to tie back into current project.

These work for smaller task / functional design. There are others more geared to uncovering larger operational and business outcome goals and aligning them to systems.

Back in the early, mid 90s I had the pleasure of studying participatory design with Andrew Clement, one of the pioneers in this approach, at the Faculty of Information Studies at the University of Toronto. Great to see PD working its way into the main stream. Hope you compile your replies for the list.


About mielniczuk

Community, systems, design, collaboration, change, evidence, Intelligent Accountability(c)
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