What are the Benefits of Using Visual Models in Requirements Gathering for Business Analysis?
The process of requirements elicitation is concerned with understanding the needs of stakeholders. There are number of techniques for eliciting requirements from stakeholders.
These steps are made easier by the use of visual models that help in understanding the needs of the stakeholder better, by making it easier to understand small details that may be otherwise missed.
Visual models help to provide context of requirements, especially in the multi-system development projects.
Why create visual requirement models?
Visual communication should be employed by Business Analysts when interacting with stakeholders to ensure that information is passed accurately. When images are incorporated into elicitation techniques, they can help improve stakeholder engagement.
Several pieces of research have shown that diagrams, graphs and images influence learning outcomes more than the written word.
There is no question that visual models are effective. But how do visual models save time and increase project success?
On a high level, visual requirements models do so in 3 main ways:
- They help validate the project’s scope
- They improve the efficiency of requirements elicitation sessions
- They facilitate a better understanding of requirements
1. For Validating Project Scope
The scope of the project refers to the detailed set of deliverables or features of a project. These deliverables are derived from the project’s requirements.
PMBOK defines project scope as “the work that needs to be accomplished to deliver a product, service, or result with the specified features and functions.”
It is very important to understand what everyone is expecting to get out of the project. But, many nuanced details can get lost in translation or may not be easy to convey to stakeholders in an effective way.
In these cases, a visual requirements model can make it easier for those involved in the project to get a better understanding of the project’s scope, helping validate it from the very beginning.
At a high level, visual models at this stage offer some key benefits:
- They help understand and better define the scope of the project
- They help identify project deliverables
- They help grasp how systems are impacted
- The allow you to identify the data you are working with
- They make it easier to offer support after successful project delivery
2. For More Efficient Elicitation Sessions
Understanding project scope is important, however sometimes elicitation sessions can lead to discussions that are unclear or go off track.
In such cases, visual models are useful in guiding the thinking process along the right track.
With visual models, stakeholders can easily get a feel for what is required and what is not.
They have the power to bring requirements to life at minimal cost to the business, and take many forms — from simple drawings on a piece of paper, to screen mockups or prototypes.
These models help to improve and finetune, the project’s focus, as well as the quality of the feedback received.
By making elicitation sessions more efficient, visual models are effective in:
- Eliciting and confirming business requirements
- Unveiling areas of conflict
3. For Understanding Requirements Better
The key to a project’s success lies in all the stakeholders being on the same page regarding a project’s requirements.
Visual models help to provide context of requirements, especially in the multi-system development projects. By providing visual explanations, stakeholders can better understand concepts and approaches .
If we use process flow diagrams, prototypes or any other visual models, stakeholders will understand how the whole project fits together and reduce errors due to miscommunication (or) misunderstanding.
Validation of requirements is critical before documenting requirements. This helps in minimizing the time spent on correcting the requirements after drafting the user stories or acceptance criteria.
The visualization models are more effective when it comes to understanding requirements, identifying gaps and quick resolution of requirements issues.
Visual Models used by Business Analysts
There are a huge range of visual models that are used by Business Analysts in their work. Here are some examples:
- Activity Diagrams
- Use Case Diagrams
- Process Flow Diagrams
- Scope Model
- Feature Mind Maps
- Pictorial Representation of Business Challenge
To summarize, visual requirement models optimize product development. They are effective tools for communicating, clarifying, analyzing and validating the requirements to maintain best practices. Visual models aid in the success of projects by removing complexity, reducing misconceptions, and identifying gaps in requirements.
Author — Sreekanth Mallela, DLT Labs™
About the Author: Sreekanth joined DLT Labs in the Business Analysis team. He transitioned to a Subject Matter Expert and IT Business Analyst from an Agriculture Molecular Biologist and has worked on the implementation of various experimental tracking and documentation platforms.