By: Erwin L. Sison
It is sometimes referred to as Requirements Gathering and most of the time confused with Business Analysis. I will dwell on the difference between these two in my future blog but for now let us focus on Requirements Analysis.
After the Sales team has handed over the project to the project team and after the Project Kick-off meeting there is nothing else to do but to go and start the project proper. It's time for Requirements Gathering.
The good news is the project team doesn't sit in front of the stakeholders empty handed. More often than not, the sales team would hand over the requirements list they had prepared during the commercial phase to the project team. That list is the starting point of this activity.
Again more often than not, the list is an overview of the requirements and it is the responsibility of the project team to dig deeper into the pie.
Here are a few tips on how to effectively conduct an effective Requirements Gathering / Analysis:
- Plan and Prepare. As I have mentioned in my previous blog, this should always be on the very top of each of your activity. Plan by making sure that the schedule fits well to all stakeholders calendar. Typically this activity will last for a week or more depending on the scope of the project. It is important to send them the schedule in advance. Prepare by going through the requirements beforehand, by doing so you will have an idea on what questions to ask and what needs to be discussed more thoroughly.
- Divide and Conquer. Group your stakeholders in such a way that all the participants’ role is inter-related to each other. The most common grouping of course would be by their respective departments e.g. Purchasing, Sales, Warehouse, Manufacturing, and Finance etc. This way, you will be more focused on one module of your ERP and you will accomplish your task a lot faster.
- Explain your Methodology. Explaining to them the methodologies that you are going to use at the start of the activity will also help them prepare themselves. There are several tools that you can use for this activity; the most common are Questionnaire and Interview. Aside from these two techniques you can always collaborate it with an impromptu system diagram or system flow to help them visualize what you understand from the information you have just gathered from them.
- Help them help you. Aside from discussing with them the methodologies that you will use, inform them in advance what you need them to prepare like sample reports, trade documents and even mockup screen shot of what they expect from the system. This will help you and your team to analyze their requirement more effectively.
- Avoid unnecessary diversion. It's pretty normal for users and even the project team to lose focus on the topic at hand especially in ERP where everything is intertwined. You'll often see yourself hovering over other subjects such as Invoicing or Deliveries while discussing about Sales. Try not to divert to that area if you plan to have a separate session with that concerned department. But make sure you link those gaps when you meet with the other teams.
- Haste makes Waste. During the course of this exercise, it is very common to dwell on similar scenarios like Invoicing for Local customers, Invoicing for Foreign customers and Invoicing for Inter-Company. Sometimes, you may think that since these are similar there is no need to further discuss on the other two after discussing the first scenario. Do not forget, if there is even a slightest difference between scenarios, all deserves a magnified look. You’ll never know when and where will a system design-changing situation lurks and it could present a problem to you in the future. Haste is your enemy.
- Review and Seek acknowledgement. It is always a good habit to repeat to the stakeholder the information that you have just gathered from a scenario before moving on to the next one. You may do this by reading out loud what you have just written down or if you are using system diagrams, go through the final version one last time. You’ll be surprised to know that more than 50% of the time, there is a forgotten or misinterpreted information somewhere that needs rectification during this final review. It is important that they acknowledge the information you have just collected.
- Let them talk while you listen. There are times when you find yourself egging to propose something or telling them what they should do instead of their current practice. Bite your tongue. Remember this is a requirements gathering phase. There is a time for your proposal and for your knowledge in ERP design to be heard. This is not YET the time. You do not want to promise something to them this early in the game just to take it back later on; it could backfire on you on the next stages of the project. So for now, hold on to your horses but make a self-note for your review.
There you go. Following these simple tips could lead to a successful Requirements Gathering/Analysis. Just like on my previous blogs these aren’t the only things that will help you achieve your goal. There are still so many factors out there but what I have just listed above will make you start on the right foot.