Is a complete requirements walkthrough really necessary?

Is it really necessary for everyone to walk through all the requirements? Is there any way to lessen the pain?
No matter how thorough and careful your team has been in capturing requirements, it's a pretty sure bet that they won't be perfect the first time. Mistakes, oversights, and misunderstandings are inevitable, and even minor oversights can be responsible for major delays or cost impacts. That's why it's highly advisable that you walk through your requirements documents with your key business and project team stakeholders, especially if they contain pages and pages of details. Reviewing these documents is important both for the sake of accuracy and to make sure everyone truly understands them. The odds of mistakes rise as the volume of requirements and the depth of their detail grows. Missed requirements account for a huge proportion of project overruns and project failures, so it's just smart business to seize every chance to minimize errors. However, how the walkthroughs are executed will have everything to do with their effectiveness—and therefore people's willingness to participate.

Now that we've made our strong statement about the critical need for a requirements walkthrough involving everyone who needs to be there, is there any way to avoid torturing a half-dozen people for hours on end? You bet! As the business analyst, you have quite a bit of flexibility in how you format the walkthrough. Here are some ways to make it less tedious.

  • Prepare your participants. Send the requirements documents ahead of time. Give the participants plenty of time, and make them accountable for reading the requirements before the walkthrough.
  • Break it up. Break the requirements document into manageable chunks and plan multiple sessions. Don't try to cover 100 pages of information at one sitting. Breaking things up this way can also give you more options for having sessions with subsets of people, rather than having everyone in the room for one marathon session.
  • Request issues areas. Consider asking the participants to email you with their biggest areas of confusion or concern, to help you prioritize the walkthrough sessions and ensure enough time is allocated to specific areas.
  • Prioritize it. Focus the conversation on the parts of the requirements that were hardest to define, or the ones that seemed to create the most confusion in previous conversations. Some requirements are likely to be straightforward, and won't require much discussion. But you may find that people want to talk through the tricky stuff one more time, to make sure they get it right.
  • Make it fun. Don't be afraid to bring in special food or corny prizes to lighten the mood. Requirements walkthroughs can be boring, but you can lighten the mood by offering rewards for the most insightful question, the most typos and errors caught, and so on. When word gets out that your requirements sessions are fun, people will beg to come. OK, perhaps that's unlikely, but they will appreciate your attention to making the sessions efficient and worthwhile, and may be more likely to attend willingly.










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