First off, allow me to apologize for the delay in starting this series. Life has been hectic in the Berquist household and that’s resulted in a delay in these articles. I hope to get back on track in the coming days and start to introduce some of the ways you can Build “IT” Better. So, without further ado…
To kick off the “Build IT Better” series of articles, I’m going to focus on the 1st phase of a proper solutions methodology – Requirements Gathering. In my experience, this is the most important phase, as any incomplete, incorrect, or unclear information in this step will throw the whole project off the rails right quick. The first tip I have to avoid this problem is:
Get A Room
When it comes to trying to tease out the details of the business problem you’re trying to solve, nothing beats being face-to-face with your customers. Taking the time to arrange an in-person meeting, and travel to your customer’s location – be it in the same office tower, across town, or maybe even across the country – shows that you value what they have to say and are willing to invest the time to listen.
I’ve found that working with people face-to-face is the single best way to build rapport, gain trust, and establish yourself as a subject matter expert whose advice they should take seriously. Allowing your customers to put a face to your name also helps to build a bond between you which can prove invaluable when the inevitable snags come up during your project. A little goodwill established up front can go a long way.
Aside from the team-building aspect of meeting face-to-face, the other main benefit I’ve found is that it provides the best forum to gather the level of detail you’ll need to successfully implement your project or change. Collaborating as a group in the same room tends to bring out the “gotcha” scenarios as people bounce ideas off of each other, or start to talk through the details of a process. Often you will hear “Oh, I almost forgot – we do this, and this, and this,” or “Actually, on second thought, maybe we don’t really need you to do (item X) because we only do that once a quarter and it doesn’t take us much time at all.”
While it is certainly possible to gather requirements over the phone, or even over email, I have found that if you truly want to understand the problem at hand, establish rapport with your customers, and capture all of the different scenarios involved, nothing beats meeting together in the same room.