Do You Really Want To Elicit IT Requirements?

IT requirements elicitation, gathering, capturing, definingIt is time for me to enlighten the rest of the world regarding IT requirements elicitation. First off, I consider it somewhat of a dangerous term, elicitation. I am afraid to ask other stakeholders on the project that I would like to “elicit your IT requirements”. Somehow, it sounds suggestive and faintly vulgar. When I check my sources (aka: the web) for synonyms, I get: “generalisation, trigger, installation, generalization, inductance, evocation, initiation, induction, inductive reasoning, summoning”. That is an interesting list. 

Now let’s see which synonym best describes what we as business analysts do to IT requirements:

  • Requirements generalisation (which my spell checker likes less than I do as it prefers the other spelling; I guess this one is English as opposed to American): I thought we were supposed to specify the requirements; isn’t specification the opposite of generalization?
  • Requirements trigger: I never actually tried to fire IT requirements, perhaps because I couldn’t find the trigger?
  • Requirements installation: I assume we will have a lot of work to do before we get to the install phase of the project; methinks we will need a lot more than just IT requirements.
  • Requirements inductance: We have an all-volunteer military, shouldn’t we allow the subject matter experts to volunteer IT requirements as opposed to drafting them?
  • Requirements evocation: I admit, I had to look that one up. The definition I got back was: “imaginative re-creation; calling up supposed supernatural forces by spells and incantations; stimulation that calls up (draws forth) a particular class of behaviors”. Is it just me, or does this one sound especially creepy?
  • Requirements initiation: I don’t really want to just initiate the requirements, I’d like to get a nice, complete set of them from the proper authorities.
  • Requirements induction:: See Requirements inductance, above.
  • Requirements inductive reasoning: OK, this one does not make any sense to me at all. Anyone else care to take a crack at it?
  • Requirements summoning: Hey, this one I can actually relate to! Nonetheless, it does sound like something to do with the supernatural, similar to “IT requirements evocation”.

What Do Business Analysts Actually Do?

This all appears to suggest that we should train spiritual mediums to conjure up the IT requirements so we can avoid all that hassle of dealing with other stakeholders like subject matter experts. Somehow, I don’t think that is a great idea – and I am actually pretty sure it was not the intent of the great minds that settled on the term “elicitation” as best describing what we as business analysts are supposed to be doing.

I have heard several terms that I think describe better this critical early project activity:

  1. Requirements determination: I suppose that IT requirements are determined to be something, and I could certainly entertain this as the official descriptor of an early project activity. Its synonyms include: “decision, purpose, conclusion, finding”. Several of those sound a bit strange, but “finding” certainly fits in my universe.
  2. Requirements gathering: An oldie but (IMHO) goody; its synonyms:  “hoard, assemble, call for, garner, gain, amass, pucker, gather up, meet, conglomerate, accumulate, roll up, take in, pull in, gather, pick up, foregather, pile up, tuck, collect, pull together, get together, compile, cumulate, earn, forgather”. With the exception of “hoard”, “pucker” and “foregather (or forgather, apparently an alternative spelling)”, I feel pretty good about any of the terms on this list. IT Requirements gathering does, however, mislead since “gathering” sounds like all we have to do is to collect what already exists – a fallacy in the business analyst world for sure.
  3. Requirements discovery: This sounds like we are working (possibly together with someone, i.e., other stakeholders) to find something nobody on the project knew yet. That actually sounds reasonable to me. The synonyms for discovery are: “uncovering, breakthrough, find”. I think any of those synonyms fit well in line with what discovering IT requirements is all about. It does imply that all requirements are unknown until someone “discovers” them. Again, a bit odd, but I can live with that. Matter of fact, it kind of matches my personality.

What You Probably Did Not Want To Know

OK, I will convert. Before I did the research for this edition, I was a fairly fervent defender of the term “requirements gathering”, based on my long and supposedly illustrious past. From now on, I will strongly defend and teach “Requirements Discovery”. I like the image of being a “discoverer”; that puts us business analysts at the same level as Christopher Columbus, Sir Francis Drake, and Neil Armstrong. Besides, being an “IT requirements discoverer” beats being an “IT requirements elicitor” hands down. I mean it, literally – hands down.

In closing, I would like to elicit (synonyms: elevate, resurrect, force out, provoke, beset, send away, awake, levy, call forth, chivy, kick upstairs, give the sack, suggest, stimulate, lift, heighten, harry, upgrade, educe, dismiss, kick up, fire, leaven, chivvy, bring up, rouse, invoke, raise, wind up, recruit, inflame, chevvy, farm, extract, excite, grow, conjure, upraise, give the axe, prove, awaken, chevy, conjure up, conflagrate, molest, go off, displace, plague, wake, waken, turn on, enhance, give notice, terminate, fuel, arouse, wake up, can, sack, advance, perk up, stir, burn, burn down, put forward, sex, enkindle, evoke, rear, harass, draw out, set up, elicit, nurture, parent, energize, produce, erect, discharge, kindle, put up, promote, hassle, open fire, brace, energise, paint a picture, get up, call down, come alive) your thoughts and opinions – but please do not take it the wrong way. I mean that literally, too.

For the record

The synonyms quoted in this article were lifted from the website www.synonyms.net on March 12, 2011. Given the malleable nature of internet entries, I do not know how they might read today. I really did not take any literary license with them – just plain old copy and paste.