Friday, April 04, 2008

7 Rules for Explaining Requirements to Colleagues 'Downstream'

Name: 7 Rules for Explaining Requirements to Colleagues 'Downstream'
Type: Rules
Status: final
Version: 2008-04-04

Gist: As a business/systems analyst, you will inevitably be confronted with the need to tell somebody about the requirements. The challange is to transport your knowledge effectively.

colleague downstream DEFINED AS someone who takes your requirements as an input for her work. I.e architects, developers, desiners, testers, techical authors.

R1: Include your audience as early and as frequently as possible. Don't fall to the BUFR principle, even if you are part of an organization that follows that principle. YOU can always make things a little differently, i. e. use unofficial channels. CC people, invite them to your stakeholder meetings, talk to them at the coffee machine.

R2: In general, use feedback cycles. It is not sufficient if your audience nods or exclaims 'understood!'.

R3: Explain the requirements, and let the others do a design right on the spot. The idea is not to come to a good design, but to see if you have effectively transported your ideas. Do the same with testers, let them lay out their test plans on the spot. Expand this Idea by doing the proven, highly efficient JAD.

R4: Don't be mislead by R3, it may be not sufficient. If you as well have to explain your requirements to someone who is not available (offshoring?), consider a formal review by someone who is not available.

R5: There's a classic but sometimes forgotten technique to make sure 'the other side' has understood: you write the business requirements, they write the system requirements. Again, this is not sufficient.

R6: Make sure your 'downstream colleagues' have to do with the subject matter for long years. (I. e. stretch projects as long as you can ;-) This way, they become subject matter experts (SME's). Weird, but efficient. However, beware of the risk that the new SME's are running the show, not your business stakeholders.

R7: Make sure YOU understand, that you cannot not communicate (see Watzlawick). However, also the reverse is true: You can't communicate, really. You will present your model of the knowledge and the receiver inevitably will have a different one.

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