This article was featured 5 years ago in Business Analyst Times BATimes.com I am reposting here, but updating it from what I have learned since then.

Every experienced business analyst knows that there is no substitute for well-defined requirements. Unfortunately, they are not always given the support or license to perform a true assessment. Sometimes stakeholders and project managers treat requirements gathering synonymously with taking orders. Expecting the analyst to just passing them on in the form of documentation.

If you find yourself in this type of situation you need to channel one of three types of people:

1.  Inner 2 Year Old

If you haven’t already guessed it the 2 year old is the one that pulls on your pant leg and asks the dreaded question…WHY? And then WHY? And then WHY? And then WHY? And then WHY again! Until you have said something that satisfies their curiosity or at the least something they finally understood. The BABoK defines this as a key elicitation technique: 5 whys of Root Cause Analysis.

2.  Inner Hunter-Gatherer

Hunter-gatherers were typically the people of a society where almost all food is obtained from the wild. In order to truly obtain requirements, you will have to go get the information you need. The BABoK considers this one of their 5 knowledge areas: Elicitation. Elicitation is about interviews, prototypes, facilitated workshops, and even job shadowing.

Hunter-gatherers do not wait until their people are starving, they hunt and gather as often as possible.

3.  The FBI Agent

The one profession I admire the most when it comes to eliciting information, it is the FBI Investigator. They employ passive and active techniques. They research and plan.They work in teams; they work alone. They sometimes know the answers before they know the questions to ask. They know the stakes are high so they don’t take no or go away as an answer.

The next time you are watching a detective in a drama TV show watching a detective sleuth out clues,  at the grocery store seeing someone picking through the fruits and vegetables looking for the just the right one, see a photo with a hunter sitting forever in a tree, or a little kid in the check out aisle asking why can’t he have a candy, don’t roll your eyes. Instead smile a secret smile, because you know exactly what they are going through.

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