The old phrase “you can’t get there from here” should not be a part of your vocabulary when gathering business requirements. In fact, a key part of your mandate is to accurately map both “current” and “end” states, as understanding where you’re starting and where you want to end up is critical.
I’ve found the easiest way to accomplish this is to sit down with your customer, fire up a copy of Visio, and say “Walk me through the way you do things now”. As your customer articulates the process, start dropping boxes into your Visio diagram with a quick note in each box indicating the general step being performed. Don’t get bogged down in the minute details at this stage – you want to sketch out the major steps being performed and any decision points that are needed.
Once you’ve got things fleshed out – step through the process again with your customer, confirming that a) the notes you took are right, b) you haven’t missed anything, and c) they haven’t missed a step.
Congratulations – you now know where you’re starting from. Next, you need to figure out where you want to go. Again, this is an area where you’ll need to collaborate with your customer and start documenting the ideal “end state”. In other words – how can the process be improved. Start dropping those boxes into Visio and making notes. Look for ways to remove unnecessary steps from the process, rearrange steps to improve the flow of information, etc. Ideally, you should be able to rework the process and identify any “net new” functionality you need to add.
At the end of this exercise, you should have the following:
- A flowchart showing the current process.
- A flowchart showing the new, improved process.
- A list of changes between the “current” and “improved” processes. This delta will form the basis for your business requirements.
In my next post, Tip #3 will expand on point #3 above. Stay tuned!