Capturing requirements is subject to other peoples availability, this remains one of the most painful parts of the process as few participants seem to understand just how important their experience is to the project. Often a participant can shape the final output without realising they have done so, I include a Show and Tell component to requirements research as it informs participants that the information provided is important, has been used and is affecting the whole project. Additionally Show and Tell is critical to validation and creating buy in. I will post more about Show and Tell later.
Creating a participant profile
There are several key questions that the facilitator needs to ask themselves when preparing to do research;
- What do I need to know?
- How will I cross relate requirements sessions?
- Does this domain have it’s own rule system?
- Does this domain have it’s own language and is it inclusive or exclusive?
The participant profile needs to represent the answers to the above questions, a good place to look for participants is senior managers (not directors) as they still have direct reports from the bleeding edge of business but have gained a level of strategic understanding both for their area and the ebb and flow of internal politics. Dependant upon the project type an understanding of the their knowledge base (within the business or organisation) is required as it determines the weight their views should carry. Other significant factors include; length of service (often describes personal drivers), education background and level, attitudes and behaviour (tend to be observational by selectors) and social / business importance.
There is a huge amount of internal politics involved in projects and often unsuitable participants are forced on projects, often as internal staff have failed to create buy in internally. I tend to work with a selection group of two to three internal people to help me understand the value each participant add to the project or the threats and risks associated with their internal agendas.
Case Study 3
I was involved with a offshore wealth management (HNW and UHNW) companies major project as a UX consultant for a new truly complex asset trading and policy construction system (a type of which I had completed before as an Enterprise Solutions Architect). I had requested but never received a profile of each participant as they had been pre-selected by the client. I had spent several days meeting people with valuable hands on experience and then I was put into an office with a Director of Sales who after 10 minutes showed an obvious controlling agenda stating “they work for me” when describing several staff members (who incidentally did not work for her). I completed the requirements gathering process and found that the Director of Sales requested other staff in the agency to work on the project. The agency involved had no specific experience in this type of system so had acquired my services specifically to work on this project. I understand they are now on to their third UX person on this project since I left, frankly the project is not standard UX and they are in deep trouble. On my side I was stunned but still think it’s one of the funniest experiences I have had working with people.
In short if your standard preparation methods have been circumvented by your clients it is a clear indication that there are problems now and will be problems on the project in the future.