The Art of Eliciting requirements

Eliciting Requirements.
It’s an Art.
So – is your answer a faster horse, a car, or Internet access and home learning kit? 🐎🚗💻

It’s the questions that you ask, and how well you listen to the answers, that determine the direction that you will explore with your client.

If you are closed minded, then the answer to a problem may feel very obvious to you.
As a hammer – every problem looks like a nail.
As a doctor – every problem needs medicine.
As a developer – every problem requires code.

Have curious conversations.
Keep an open mind.
Ask open, exploratory questions.

This activity, conversing back and forth with the customer in this way, will help you both arrive at a conclusion that feels like the right one.
It will also help open the customer to things that they might not have thought before, and as they’ve been part of the discussion – feel a lot more vested in the outcome.

How far you get in the exploration which disqualifies potential solution, depends on how good you are at this questioning and listening process.

Try it today with a friend or a colleague, and keep practicing.
That’s the only way to get better at anything.

That’s why I’m doing the #30daysofvideos (on Day 25!)



Hi. One of the things that we have to do as a consultant with a consulting partner is gather requirements. Yeah, the good, solid, accurate requirements.

I was talking to a friend of mine who currently works at Salesforce as a Customer Success Manager. And I asked her, “What are the kinds of things that you hear from your customers that often go wrong with projects?” And she said, “Requirements. Understanding scope.”

Imagine you’re in a situation where you’re talking to someone who is telling you, “Oh, life is so hard, I have to send my children to school using my horse. And the horse is, I love her. But she’s so slow. And she takes up so much of my time caring for her, and I’ve got to feed her. And she costs a lot when he called a vet. And it’s just so much trouble. And because she’s so slow, I get to the school really late, and my children just get to classes late every day.”

If you were to ask this customer, what their pain point is, this is what they would say.

So you’ve got a couple of things that you could do. One is you could think, AHA! She needs a better horse, maybe a younger one, one that doesn’t get sick quite so often. One that can run a bit faster, so that her children get to school quicker. So that’s an option that you can take, and it’s the most obvious one.

Or maybe you can ask some more questions like, “What else do you use the horse for?” And then your customer might say, “Well, I also used to horse to take me to work” or following the theme of the analogy, “Carting my farm produce to the market, and selling things and bartering”, maybe.

Or what if you ask further questions, or if the customer says, “Well, actually, I don’t use my horse for anything else. She’s only being used to cart my children to school. And that’s kind of it.”

Depending on follow up questions that you ask different options could present itself, you might find that the customer actually needs a car. Or a truck or a van, especially if they’re carting their produce to the farm. Or maybe if there’s no other use of the horse, and they’ve got internet, because we’re following my fantasy here.

Maybe they just need a Home Learning Kit, so that they don’t have to travel using their current horse.

So as you can see, the questions that you ask and the listening skills that you deploy, will kind of dictate the solution that you bring to the customer.

Sometimes there are no right or wrong answers. They’re just better ones.

As people, sometimes we’ve got a problem and the way we think that..

Let’s imagine that we are the customer and we have causing our children to school, perhaps we’ll think, along the same lines of the first option, “Oh, my horse is really, really slow. I just need a faster horse.”

And you can apply that to a business context.

“I’ve got this button that creates a report. And it’s really slow. I want the same button to create the same reports a bit quicker.” But maybe what you really want is the information that’s stored within the report presented in a different way, a dashboard as an example, that has real time information in a more engaging graphical and visual format.

So the tip for today is something you can apply in your daily life and in business is actually to listen a bit better and ask better questions.

You might find that the answers that you thought that you should have is quite different once you follow a slightly different and more expansive and exploratory type of conversation with the other person you’re speaking to.

I hope you found this tip useful. And I hope to see you again tomorrow.

In the meantime, have a great day.

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