Business Analysis Guidebook/Facilitation and Elicitation Techniques

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Facilitation and Elicitation Techniques[edit]

Introduction[edit]

Requirements elicitation and facilitation skills are the cornerstone of the business analysis practice. Having accurate requirements is critical to effectively manage application development, business improvements or responses to current (changing) business conditions. As described in Section X of the guidebook, Business Analysts are responsible for facilitating discussion to gather, analyze and validate the requirements for a project and gain consensus on a solution.

Elicitation refers to the process of translating business needs into concrete, clear statements that can be managed and used to promote continuous improvement, ideally, across the entire operations of a business. Facilitation concerns the ability to extract true business requirements from the project customers, business stakeholders, project development team and/or external vendors. Business Analysts may perform daily tasks that are targeted to several areas of system development, business process improvement or business process reengineering, but must have a clear and correct understanding of the business needs captured in the requirements and the ability to manage them effectively to ensure the successful implementation of the project deliverable.

This section covers the general tasks that should occur to facilitate a successful productive meeting as well as commonly used techniques for business and technical requirements elicitation.

Facilitation Basics[edit]

Facilitated sessions provide structure and process to a group that is meeting to achieve a common goal. Facilitated sessions not only enhance communication among participants but encourage cross- functional participation and assist the group in making decision, solving problems or sharing ideas or information. In some cases, facilitated sessions can expedite the review and approval process. Within the business analysis discipline, facilitated sessions can be used for the following: defining business strategy, defining requirements, scope, business rules, and process requirements, perform walk-throughs and reviews. A successful meeting is dependent on three key areas: planning, conducting the meeting and follow-up.

Planning[edit]

Significant time should be spent on the preparation of a meeting. When planning a meeting, three key questions should be asked:

  • Why is the session being held (objective/purpose)?
  • What specific outcome is required from the meeting (deliverables)?
  • What key participants or decision making authority should attend the meeting (participant list)?

One of the first tasks the facilitator is responsible for is clearly defining the purpose and objective of the meeting. The facilitator may discuss with the Project Manager and/or Project Sponsor, if necessary, the scope, objectives and specific outcomes that are required from the meeting. While planning for the session, consideration should be given to ensuring the necessary participants are invited to the meeting. Requirement gathering sessions will require business and technical subject matter experts. If the purpose of the meeting is to reach a decision on a proposed solution, participants with decision making authority should be invited to the meeting. In addition to the role of the facilitator, other roles can be assigned at a meeting. These roles are described below.

  • Facilitator- The facilitator is responsible for identifying those issues that can be solved as part of the meeting and those which need to be assigned at the end of the meeting for follow-up investigation and resolution. A facilitator helps understand a common objective to achieve a goal without taking a side in discussion and encourages discussion and idea generation and possibilities by engaging stakeholders.
  • Scribe- an individual who is assigned to document the minutes of the meeting. The scribe may be asked at the end of the meeting to recap the action items for the group.
  • Timekeeper- an individual who is assigned to monitor time to ensure all agenda topics are covered at the meeting.
  • Participant or Subject Matter Expert (SME)- Participants attends and provides input into the sessions. Subject Matter Experts are generally the closet to the subject matter. Not having the right SMEs in the meeting will become a risk in trying to achieve the meeting outcomes.

The meeting agenda is the roadmap that structures a meeting around the group’s purpose and helps to keep the meeting on track to achieve the needed outcomes within the time available. Although different formats for agendas exist, an agenda should include the items listed below. Some meeting agenda templates may also provide space for open action items and/or issues, recorded outcomes and next meeting date/time. Items to include in an agenda include:

  • Meeting identification, including the following items:
  • Name of Meeting
  • Date of Meeting
  • Time of Meeting
  • Location of Meeting
  • Invited Attendees


  • Objective of Meeting
  • Who will be involved in presenting a topic
  • Estimated time to cover a topic
  • Any separate documents that will be reviewed

When developing the agenda, consideration should be given to structuring the agenda so the meeting starts with less controversial items, building towards more controversial items in the middle of the meeting and ending with items about which you can anticipate agreement. Meeting agendas and associated materials should be sent out at least one to two business days before the meeting.

Conducting the meeting[edit]

At the start of the meeting, the facilitator should review the agenda and the objective of the meeting. It is important to make sure that the participants have a clear understanding of what specifically needs to be accomplished at the meeting.

Depending on the size and purpose of the meeting, ground rules may also need to be established and reviewed prior to discussing the agenda topics. Ground rules establish boundaries and help create an environment where individuals feel comfortable participating in a meaningful way. Depending on the purpose of the meeting, appropriate ground rules may include:

  • Limit discussion to x minutes per item
  • Lengthy issues should be documented and tabled
  • One person speaks at a time
  • Avoid side discussions
  • The whole group is responsible for the results
  • One person speaks at a time
  • Allow individuals to finish their idea/thought
  • Criticize the product or process, not people

It is the role of the facilitator to bring structure to a meeting and lead individuals through the agenda to reach consensus on a decision or elicit requirements. For a session to be successful, the facilitator must redirect the group when necessary, engage in active listening, generate participation from all participants, paraphrase and question to expand dialog and document information on flip charts. In addition, it is important that the facilitator remain neutral in order for participants to feel open to generate and discuss ideas.

At the close of the meeting, the facilitator should identify next steps and solutions that have been selected or decisions that have been made. If time warrants, the facilitator may also solicit any further feedback or comments.

Follow Up[edit]

After the meeting is conducted, the facilitator or participant(s) should follow up on open issues. The designated scribe distributes the meeting minutes to all the invited participants. Clarification and/or follow-up may be received from meeting participants. Participants should provide statuses on any action items given at the meeting. Also if necessary, the facilitator schedules additional meetings.


Facilitation Techniques[edit]

The role of the facilitator is to foster and encourage discussion and depending on the meeting purpose, idea generation. Below are some tips that a facilitator can use to structure the discussion:

Source: Anne Kehlholer
  • Group or Individual Brainstorming
  • Ask open ended questions to generate ideas
  • Active listening and Paraphrasing
  • Encourage equal group participation
  • Ask for input
  • Use Flip Charts to document information

As a business analyst, it is not uncommon when the analyst must not only facilitate the meeting but also contribute to the discussion to gather requirements, solution options or reach consensus on a recommendation. The chart on the next page includes several types of questions that can be used to help elicit information from stakeholders.

EDIT NOTE: Insert table of facilitation techniques from skillport

Troubleshooting and Dealing with Difficult Behaviors[edit]

There may be times during a meeting, a meeting participant presents difficult behavior or conflict arises between two meeting participants. In this event, it is the facilitator’s role to manage the conflict. The table below highlights the most common difficult behaviors and a recommended approach that the facilitator may take to correct the behavior to keep the meeting on track.

Difficult Behavior Approach
Non-stop Talking Summarize the points made and then call upon someone else to continue the discussion.
Displaying Superiority Recognize the participant’s contribution and ability and ask them the more challenging questions.
Repeating the Same Points Reassure the participant that you heard and recorded his/her point. Ask them if they have an additional point they would like to make.
Side Conversations Tell the person that you didn’t hear his/her comments and ask him/her to repeat them for the group. Ask the participants who are having the side bar conversation if there is anything they would like to add.
Anger Attempt to translate their feelings into specifics that are within the power of the group to deal with.
Doubting Reassure the participant that the group will carefully evaluate and judge the viability of all ideas at a later point in the process.
Monopolizing the conversation Avoid eye contact with the participant and select others within the group to offer their thoughts.

Common Requirements Elicitation Techniques[edit]

Many techniques are available for business or system requirements elicitation. This section describes the commonly used techniques. Depending on the size and scale of the project, several of these techniques may be combined to ensure a complete picture of the requirements has been achieved. The techniques below are grouped into three categories: Vision Development, Analysis, Definition and Other. Techniques used to develop a vision or used to generate ideas for new solutions or a proposed approach. Analysis techniques are best used to conduct a gap analysis, perhaps when comparing a current environment to the envisioned target environment. The facilitator should select the most appropriate technique based on the meeting objective. The section is not exhaustive of the many techniques that a facilitator can employ.

Vision Development Techniques[edit]

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is an effective technique for identifying a diverse group of ideas, a new or alternative solution, or a vision within a relatively short period of time. Brainstorming works by focusing on a topic or problem and helps answers questions like:

  1. . What options (or alternative options) are available to resolve problem?
  2. . What factors are contributing to not moving forward with an option?
  3. . What are possible causes for a delay in product x?
  4. . What are possible solutions to problem x?

Brainstorming sessions allows participants to come together and creatively think of what a solution may look. At the beginning of a brainstorming session, participants should be reminded of the simple ground rule that no idea is a bad idea. The best ideas are often generated when individuals are creative and build on the ideas of others. As ideas are generated, the facilitator should document them on flipcharts or sticky notes for participants to review. Either at the conclusion of the meeting or after the session, the ideas are consolidated and/or duplicates eliminated. A consensus is reached as to what solution is best. Finally, after the meeting the outcomes should be distributed to meeting participants.

Several options exist for the structure of a brainstorming session. Below are a few techniques that may be used depending on the scale and scope of the meeting.

  • Open Discussion- free flowing, no particular format. The lack of structure to this type of discussion requires skilled facilitation.
  • Informal Group Brainstorming- anything goes, no critiquing of ideas, build on ideas of others, all group members call out ideas in no set order. Ideas recorded on flipchart for review, consolidation and decision making.
  • Formal Group Brainstorming- seeks input in a predetermined order asking each member to share one idea at a time. An individual may pass. Continue to work through the group until all ideas are presented. This structure ensures that all participates have the opportunity to participate.
  • Group Brainstorm on Post-its- each person records one idea per post-it note, calls out in no particular order. The use of post-it notes allows ideas to be moved around easily for consolidation, discussion and elimination. In addition, having participants write information on post-its also keeps them engaged in the meeting.
  • Individual Brainstorm on Post-its- each person works individually to record an idea per post-it and ideas are shared in a predetermined order. This structure ensures that everyone participates.
  • Individual Brainstorm and Report out- each person works individual to record an idea. One individual is selected to share entire list. Other participants report any additional ideas.
  • Mind Mapping- print focus idea in a circle or box in center of page, print key ideas or thoughts on lines connected to the center focus, build from key ideas all related ideas using branches from the key ideas. Show connectors and groupings to various branches of the map.
  • Partners- have people work in pairs to discuss an issue and brainstorm their ideas

Brainwriting

Brainwriting is a similar technique to brainstorming. The main difference is that brainwriting is anonymous. Individuals participating in the session write their ideas down and share with the group to further brainstorm the idea.

Definition Techniques[edit]

Focus Groups

Focus groups may be used to gather input into design or feedback from individuals who are directly involved with a process. Focus groups are held with customers, subject matter experts or end users to discuss a process or technology and share their perspectives. Focus groups are a good technique to learn about opportunities for improvement, and customer needs and problems. Although not as common, focus groups can also be used to gather and document requirements.


Joint Application Development

Joint Application Development (JAD) is a commonly used technique to gather requirements. JAD sessions can be used in a variety of other purposes in the system development, business process management and project management lifecycles. They can be used to generate ideas for new system features, review and agree to specifications of a system or gain consensus on the objectives of a project.

JAD sessions are useful to elicit large amounts of information within a relatively short time frame. They are typically a one to two day focused session allows stakeholders to come together in a structured setting. Because of the amount of information that a business analyst is able to obtain from one JAD session, they generally accelerate systems development. JAD sessions are also most effective when participants are able to make decisions regarding the system or process. http://www.ksinc.com/itpmcptools/JADGuidelines.pdf


Analysis Techniques[edit]

GAP Analysis

GAP analysis is an effective technique to compare differences between two different environments or systems. In business analysis, gap analysis can be used to determine the difference between the business requirements and system capabilities or studying two different environments (current and target environment). The information is then used to determine what is needed in order to move from one state to the other. Gap Analysis is also a useful technique to capture missing or incorrect system requirements. Although several templates exists for capturing information obtained in a gap analysis exercise, below is a simple template that can be customized to fit your needs.


Current State Future State Next Steps
- - -


Other Techniques[edit]

Surveys/Questionnaires

Surveys and questionnaires are an informal means to elicit requirements. Surveys are useful to reach a large audience. Surveys can be designed to characterize requirements or envisioned components of a system. Surveys should be short, to ensure a higher response rate. Development of surveys requires preparation to ensure the needed information will be obtained from the questions asked. Survey questions may be developed are open or closed questions that require.


Observation/shadowing

Observing a user is an effective technique when gathering requirements pertaining to an existing, current process. If an end user has been in their current position for many years, they may have a difficult time describing the processes they routinely follow. Observing someone doing their job will provide the Business Analyst insight on the overall process as well as bottlenecks. Observation/shadowing allow the business analyst to uncover requirements that may have been easily overlooked. The technique is effective for analysis of workflow process modeling or business process reengineering.


Interviews

Interviewing stakeholders either in an individual or group setting is a straightforward approach to obtaining requirements. Interviewing stakeholders or end users allows the business analyst to ask open ended and probing questions to uncover the necessary requirements and understand their expectations. At the end of the interview, the business analyst should send their notes to the interviewee (or group) for review.


Document Analysis

Reviewing existing (as-is) documentation for an existing process or system can be useful, if available. Evaluating this documentation can help the business analyst complete a gap analysis in order to ????

Procedures, requirements documents, proposals. After reading and understanding the current process or system, the BA may document questions and follow-up with a SME. Use existing documentation to uncover new requirements.


Models

One additional facilitation technique for Business Analysts is the development of models. Workflow models and/or data models can provide business rules or the sequencing of work that will aid in discussion. Please see section X in this Guidebook for additional information and benefits of modeling.