How can a business analyst effectively prepare for changes to requirements, before they happen?

They say this is what they want today, but we all know it will change next month. How can I be ready for requirements changes down the road?
We all know that change is inevitable. Why, then, are we so surprised when it happens? It's quite unrealistic to imagine that the business or systems requirements for a given project won't change. Because a business analyst is tasked with helping manage how changes impact the project requirements, consider applying the following strategies which will help you prepare to manage any requirements changes:
  • Create a clear expectation among your stakeholders that change will happen.
  • Take time, at the start, to establish a clear, efficient change management process. Document how changes must be submitted, who will be accountable for reviewing them and understanding their impact, and who will have ultimate authority to approve the changes.
  • If an external change is likely to impact the requirements, carefully note it as a risk, and work with the project team members to minimize any re-work or other adverse effects of the change.
  • When changes occur, you'll need to quickly and easily know how they affect the other requirements. So, be sure to set up a deliberate, methodical process for tracing how the requirements are linked, and how they affect each other.

Of course, the best way to manage changes is by avoiding them. Thus, one of the most valuable services a business analyst can provide is to help minimize changes through better analysis. How can you make your analysis as thorough as possible? A good start is to carefully organize and categorize the requirements while planning how you'll manage them. Consider these guidelines:

  • Spend time brainstorming with your key stakeholders. Try to think of every factor that could change the project, and the types of changes that would have the greatest cost or negative impact. When and how are these changes likely to occur?
  • When possible, sequence the requirements activities to drive out the highest-risk items first.
  • Pay special attention to any requirement areas where there's a weakness in business expertise, and try to compensate for the gaps by asking informed, probing questions.

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