How Would You Plan Requirements Analysis? — Interview Questions

Photo by Ylanite Koppens

It’s time to tackle one of the more advanced business analyst interview questions: how would you plan requirements analysis?

This question is both important and tricky.

Tricky because in your eagerness to reply, you may miss the word “plan”.

You may go right into explaining how you will interview stakeholders, capture what they say and create a business requirements document.

This is not what this question is about.

So first of all, don’t trip yourself up early in an interview by answering the wrong question. When you do that, you lose valuable points as a job candidate.

This is true for any job interview, but especially for jobs in business analysis job family. A business analyst must be a good listener and know how to focus on the right problems. So you need to pay attention and answer the right question.

Let’s go back to the question which was, how do you plan requirements analysis?

A good business analyst, just like a good project manager, architect or experimental scientist, must be a good planner.

Before you start analysis activities, you must have a plan — to structure the business analysis effort.

Without a plan, you will never know where you are, what is missing and what needs to be done next.

Of course, business analysis is an iterative process. Sometimes, when you think you are near the end, you will discover something new or unexpected that will require more analysis.

This is part of business analysis — in fact, discovering gaps is a good thing, even if this means you need more time to complete the analysis. Discovering a gap during the analysis stage is much more cost-efficient than discovering the same gap during user acceptance testing, or, sometimes, after launch.

But you still need to plan. Iterative processes cannot be random and must follow a general direction and hit specific milestones, even if deviations to explore new knowledge are required.

In addition, the business analysis plan is not just for you, the business analyst.

This will become a plan for engaging business stakeholders. Their time and attention span will be limited as they are not usually dedicated to project work, and we must respect it.

A business analysis plan will need to become a part of the larger project plan. It’s in your best interests to plan well so that you are afforded the time to organize and conduct a thorough analysis.

Now, let’s tackle the answer. How should you plan requirements analysis — and talk about it in your job interview?

To plan, you must start with the big picture.

What is the project supposed to achieve? Who are all the stakeholders?

What are the impacts of the change?

What processes, systems, and groups of people are involved?

Do you need to analyze business rules? Existing data issues?

Does the required solution involve new business processes? Additional integrations? New reports and analytics?

Your plan will need to include a sequence of business analysis activities to support the overall analysis process:

  • Doing research, collecting information, data and artifacts. What about? A context model will help.
  • Interviewing stakeholders — sometimes together, sometimes in smaller groups. How to identify stakeholders and their interests? You could use a business use case diagram.
  • Discovery activities such as immersion, workshops, or focus groups. Learn more about discovery activities, asking questions, and business process immersion.
  • Analysis of the information, data, and processes. Read more about data analysis, process analysis and other BA tools & techniques.
  • Capturing the results.
  • Prioritization and validation activities.

So to answer this question confidently in an interview, you must understand the importance of planning, and what information is required to support planning.

You need to be comfortable with different methodologies, and understand how planning might differ — most notably, in projects that follow waterfall or agile methodology.

Don’t fall into the trap that you don’t need to plan anything if you are on an agile team.

For any problem of a reasonable size, lack of planning usually translates into chaos and random work.

Whether it’s a planning sprint, iteration zero, or a discovery sprint — a solid planning effort is required at the beginning of any initiative.

Then, a business analyst will play a key role in sprint planning meetings to make every sprint productive and successful, and to work on the most valuable user stories first.

In summary:

To learn more about business analysis process and techniques, check out my book Business Analyst: A Profession and a Mindset and learning videos on the Why Change channel.

Please share your thoughts!

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