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Business Writing
Elicitation Techniques

What is elicitation and analysis? 

Elicitation is the discovery and progressive elaboration of understanding the needs of the customers and the stakeholders. It is a set of techniques that goes beyond what is stated and what the data says to dig and probe deeper into unsaid. The process helps the teams evolve their ideas into requirements that will take a solution into alignment with what delights the customer.  

The analysis takes the information elicited and looks at where the gaps and impacts are. This is done by breaking it down and looking at various angles. We can look at the angles of a sequence, data, logical rules, stakeholders, and other existing relationships. It involves modeling, diagramming, and documenting to look at various angles.  

Elicitation Techniques 

These help stakeholders find requirements, needs, risks, dependencies, assumptions, and opportunities. The goal is to discover and extract information that gives the team a shared understanding of the needs.  

We use high-impact collaboration techniques to get our stakeholders and teams to connect the dots and discuss suitable topics. There are a few approaches to getting started working collaboratively: 

  • Include planned and unplanned activities.  
  • Vary techniques by the level of formality. 
  • Conduct research to elicit. 

1. Interviews:  

These are the most common elicitation techniques. These can be used as a relationship-building tool or to understand the scope of work. There is value in interviewing anyone associated with the project, such as sponsors, subject matter experts, business managers, customers, and users. Interviews should be strategic: they should help you build relationships with stakeholders or elicit details in complex areas.  

To get the most out of interviews, they can be broken into: Prepare, Conduct, and Follow Up.  

When preparing for the interview, think about Who you are interviewing. Think about their role and how you can make a personal connection with them. Building relationships is critical. Next, brainstorm the goal of the interview. While preparing questions, prepare in two tiers-either ask engaging questions that open dialogue or probing questions that elicit more detail.  

After preparing, we move to conduct the interviews. One must take time to build rapport. Next, ask prepared questions. For each interview, have 2-3 interview questions that are engaging and probing to keep the conversation candid. Keep in mind to limit note-taking as it can wreck the flow. Create bullet points instead of trying to note down everything they say.  

I am, lastly, following up after an interview. Chat to make sure all key points have been noted correctly. Ask the interviewee to validate and clarify important points.  

2. Brainstorming

Brainstorming in a project setting gathers a group of stakeholders to produce many ideas around a topic. Idea generation is critical for all areas of project work. We can brainstorm things such as which stakeholders are getting impacted, features of a solution, solution options and alternatives, risks, or ways to resolve issues. We can also brainstorm feelings and user reactions while using the product. Another item to brainstorm is exception paths and scenarios.  

Effective brainstorming requires planning and sound techniques. A good strategy is to start with individual brainstorming and then group brainstorming. During the brainstorming session, ask people to write and discuss their ideas as a group.  

3. Observation:  

This is also known as job shadowing. When applying this technique, you don’t watch someone use the product or system. One must watch how they go about the task, what problem they are trying to have, and their feelings during the task. You should also observe their thought process and their internal decisions as they use the product. There are two types of observations we can apply: 

  1. Passive: During passive observation, there is no interaction with the user. Their process and emotions are understood. It is beneficial as it takes less time for the user, or they are unaware of the observation. If they are aware of being observed, sometimes that can lead to nervousness.  
  1. Active: While passive observation, we are working with the user, and we ask questions during the process to better understand or confirm what we are seeing. This takes longer and interrupts the user. 

4. Experiments: 

Experiments involve learning the unknown and testing ideas, assumptions, and critical theories that drive product and system requirements. We identify what we want to learn more about and design an experiment to collect the required information. Experimenting helps teams get through the times when requirements are hard to get at or constantly changing.  

To plan an experiment: 

  1. Understand what we need to learn. What information must we collect to help the team make better decisions?  
  1. Isolate what you need to learn. Design an experiment to minimize the impact outside the learning area.  
Sana Lalpuria
Sana Lalpuria
Business Analyst I at Imperium Dynamics | + posts


Abdul Wasay

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