Reminding Business to focus on the business need and not on the solution

A few years ago I was asked by a client to get on a plane to Florida to meet with some business partners and do a final business review of a requirements document that someone had put together.

When I arrived, the business partners present thought that in a few hours we would all be done reviewing the requirements document and then we could then spend time over the next 2.5 days discussing other items. After all they had spent several other sessions over the past few years developing the document so as far as they were concerned it was in a final state. That was until I came along.

The requirements document I had been asked to review had been written in the format of making business work around perceived constraints of IT. It had a good explanation of what the business were trying to do but not the actual business rules behind them. Instead the business had adjusted their rules to meet what they thought the IT department would require.

Two days after I arrived, we finally had a good working document that focused on the business rules and left it up to the IT experts to work out how to implement. Dozens of perceived technology constraints were removed from the document and the business eyes were opened up as to how an IT solution can help rather than hinder their business.

I see this time and time again, where less experienced Business Analysts allow focus of a requirements gathering session to end up bogged down into making Business Rules that tie in with supposed constraints on IT solutions. In turn this leads business to expect little out of IT because they don’t expect them to deliver a great solution. Worse still, the self imposed constraints mean that items that are not delivered from the bad requirements are considered of higher failure because the business compromised so much in writing the requirements.

As Business Analysts there are times when the focus of the solution should be constrained by IT up front but those situations should be clearly defined in the scope statement. When it comes to large Business opportunities, IT constraints should be limited, as the whole purpose is to enable the business to move forward and not hold them back by using out of date solutions.


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