Friday, 20 February 2009 11:08

Gathering User Requirements - Part 3: Know Thy Product

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Have you ever been in an elicitation meeting and the users refers to some functionality in your product and you have absolutely no idea what they are talking about? Well, this has happened to me a few times. I was thrown in with the high level description of the product but had never seen the real product because the organization had only the "in-development" products. And, as a débutante in business analysis, I really didn't know what I was doing most of the time. But I have learned my lesson since then.
That's why, I believe the first commandment to a Product BA, is to KNOW THY PRODUCT.

You may ask, but how do i do that?

First of all, following on our BABOK bible, during your Requirement Planning and Management and while you are defining the business analyst work division strategy, make sure you use knowledge transfer and allow for some time for studying the product. This can be done between QA and BA or Development Team and BA. If the product is well documented (which I have rarely find) then use the document analysis technique from the BABOK.
Other things you can do to familiarize yourself with the product is:
1. Use it
This can be a bit hard if you don't have any documented personas or scenarios. I recommend that you talk with you start making friends with your QA department. They should have some test cases or can verbally tell you how they go through testing the product, which will give you allow you to understand the kind of users you will be dealing with and the functionalities being tested.

2. Look at competitors
If this is a brand new product and you have an idea who your competitors are, start studying their product. You will learn about the users of their product, understand its use and gain good strategy on how to lead the conversation with your users. You don't want to not have some type of knowledge. Your competitor may have a better documentation than your organization on an existing product as well.

3. Talk to marketing
Marketing department may have competitive analysis data or data from focus groups; which will you give you an idea of what users desires are (NOT requirements)and the perception of the product. You can also discover what the marketing people are presenting to the customers, what vision of the product they are selling.

4. Check the status tracking or log file if existing
If you have been assigned to a maintenance project for an existing product, and if there are logs on the use of the product, this is a great place to get user paths and even some scenarios. Once you get this information, you can go back to using the product and learn more about it by following your users.

And of course, going back to our first lesson, don't forget your "Fixer Uppers" and you "Wind Stoppers". Check with them to see what they know of the product and the functionalities used by the users.

Once you know your product, now it's time to get to know your users: Gathering User Requirements: Part 4: Know Thy Users 

Linda Erzah

Linda is a mentor and a consultant.

She currently holds the position of principal as well as instructor at BAMentor, LLC.

Her passion for business analyst combined with her love to see other professionals succeed has inspired her to create BAMentor.

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