Requirements Training a Long Time Ago

Requirements training from the old days till now“Tom, George over in the Warehouse needs a program to help him track some kind of inventory. Why don’t you go talk with him and find out what he wants?”

That was the extent of my initial requirements training. Of course, that was a year or two (OK, a decade or three) ago and life was simpler back then. Unfortunately, that did not protect us from missing, misunderstanding and misinterpreting the requirements back then any more than modern technology saves us from that fate today. Technology is a wonderful thing, no doubt, but it does not make life simpler. It takes people using the technology to achieve anything and if we ignore the human dimension, we risk losing sight of what is really important.

Requirements Training and the Human Element

There’s an ad on TV currently that talks about how various elements combine to form everything around us but without the human element “HU”, there is no real spark, nothing has value. Hmmm, “HU”, I don’t recall seeing that one on the Table of Elements last time I looked, but it does make perfect sense to me. Gathering requirements is a very human experience. From understanding what to ask (assuming you even know that) to figuring out how to ask it (people are a diverse bunch, aren’t they?) to knowing what to believe (and that takes some practice), the business analyst has to deal with “HU” every day. The key question is, “Is there any way to learn all of that stuff besides the way I (see the first paragraph) learned it?”

The answer, of course, is that there is. Actually, given the technology of the day, there are even quite a few options for learning how to capture, clarify, confirm, analyze, specify, and manage requirements. Beyond the old stand-by, instructor-led courses, the Internet now supports webinars (good for building awareness, lousy for building skills), mind-numbing page-turner web-based courses (good for the author$, less good for the student), and a variety of informative articles spread thinly across the breadth of the world-wide web. In all of these, the HU element seems to be missing. Maybe that’s what they need to become more effective than they are now. Yes, Virginia, web-based training could have a future.

The Technology of Requirements Training

Our company recently embarked on a grand experiment to see whether this technology (the WWW) or any other technology (Intranets, Extranets, Hair nets, Fish nets, etc.) so devoid of the personal touch could be made into effective tools for transferring the skills needed to become an effective business analyst. We chose the title "Requirements Gathering Workshops Online" for our experiment to make people aware of the virtual delivery and the workshop nature of the sessions. Having completed 14 sessions to date, we are happy to share the results with you.

And the answer is . . . it can. Obviously, there are still some minor kinks to work out, but we have learned that it is possible to conduct live eLearning sessions (that’s what the rest of the world calls our “virtual workshops”) effectively with the current technology. We are now confident that we can transfer the vast majority of our business analysis training courses to this media, not to replace our face-to-face Instructor-led sessions, but to augment them. Having used this media to train people in Writing Effective Business Requirements, we know that we have a good basis and are ready to move into the next phase of expansion. We will keep you informed of the evolution of our Live eLearning sessions (it is easier to join them than to fight them over the name!) in future editions of this newsletter.

How Does This Affect You?

What’s in it for you, the intrepid requirements analyst? If we can figure out how to teach people how to capture, clarify, confirm, analyze, specify, and manage requirements using the Internet, maybe we can learn how to use the same tool to capture, clarify, confirm, analyze, specify, and manage the requirements you need for your project — and that’s something we could all use. The future’s waiting.

We’ll keep you posted.