The Project Management Institute (PMI) encourages its members to advance the profession. One of the ways to do this is by helping others increase their project management skills. The target audiences for this blog are professional PM’s early in their careers as well as those who manage projects but are not PM’s by title or trade. I will be posting every week or so, offering practical tips and tools on the full range of project management topics. I hope you will find this useful and help you advance your career.
For the purpose of this analysis approach, “Business Events” are anything that occurs that causes your “business” to initiate a business process. Defining all of the Business Events in scope will lead to discovery of the business process in scope.
There are three main types of Business Events:
- External: These come from outside of your business and you have little or no control as to when or how often these events occur. Examples are “Customer purchases Product” or “Associate requests time off”.
- Temporal: These events happen at regular predetermined intervals. These intervals are required, they are not a business or design decision. Don’t let technology limitations determine the interval. Good Example: “It is time to file quarterly taxes”. Bad Example: “Every two hours the HR system sends employee information to the Financial System”.
- Data/System State: Occur when the data or system reaches a predetermined condition. These are usually Business Rules or Policy decisions. Example: “Product is re-ordered when the inventory level reaches 5”.
The input arrows on the Context Diagram are the starting point for event discovery. In the next post I will define the elements of the “Event List”.
The Context Diagram is the place to start when doing your analysis. It should be done in conjunction with the stakeholders that are most knowledgeable about the business processes for the domain under study. The initial list of Business Events will be derived from the Context Diagram.
Start with a circle in the middle of the diagram. This represents the area of the business in the scope of the project. All of the processes within this circle are in scope and are able to be modified or added to as part of the project scope. Think of it as if this business function were outsourced to a service provider and the Executive Sponsor of the project is the CEO of this service provider. What would they need to know to create a business model?
First, you would want to define “who are my Customers?”. Your Customers are recipients of your business’s outputs (in most projects, these are flows of information and data). Ask the key stakeholders “who are the current recipients of information your business function?”. Draw the Customers as rectangles on the right hand side of the diagram. It is not important at this time that you have the complete list of Customers, only that you have some. We will complete the list of Customers in an iterative process in conjunction with the Event/Response Model.
Next, define the types of information that flow to each Customer. Draw these as arrows from the center circle and connecting to the Customer rectangle. Have a short, high level description of the flow on each arrow.
After that you need to define “who are your Suppliers?”. The Suppliers are providers of the business’s information and data. Ask the key stakeholders “who are the current providers of information for your business function?”. Draw the Suppliers as rectangles on the left hand side of the diagram. It is not important at this time that you have the complete list of Suppliers, only that you have some. We will complete the list of Suppliers in an iterative process in conjunction with the Event/Response Model.
Next, define the types of information that flows from each Supplier. Draw these as arrows from the Supplier rectangles and connecting to the center circle. Have a short, high level description of the flow on each arrow.
Rules for Suppliers and Customers:
- They can be individuals, roles, departments, organizations, systems, vendors, etc. Anything that is a net originator or receiver of data or information from your “business”.
- Some entities can be both Suppliers and Customers. so they will have arrows going in both directions.
- If you are struggling with whether a Supplier or Customer is inside or outside the circle, the general rule is for entities outside the circle, the project has no control over their processes. The project can only change the nature and content of the information flows to and from these entities.
- There are no flows represented that go from entity to entity. They may exist but they are of no concern to the project.
Here is an example of a Context Diagram:
A new blog post will be published on September 10.
The Event Model looks at the scope of your project as if this business function is being outsourced to a third party business and your Executive Sponsor is the CEO of that business. This is the new way of thinking about requirements that I referred to in the Overview post.
The Event Model consists of the following elements:
- The Context Diagram – shows your business boundary as a circle in the center of the diagram with your suppliers, customers and information flows surrounding the center circle. I will present this in detail in the next post.
- The Event/Response Model – this contains the detail of the events that “wake up your business” and requires the business to have a planned response. It is progressively elaborated in conjunction with the Context Diagram. More on this in a future post.
- Use Cases – are derived from the Event/Response Model and show the specific steps required for each business response. At the end of the requirements analysis, this becomes (or is the basis for) your “Business Standard Operating Procedures Manual”. Functional Requirements are derived from the Use Cases.
An important thing to remember when creating the Event Model is to keep it independent of technology. It needs to address “what we do” and not “how we do it”. Doing this will help you envision more design alternatives than you would if you locked in a solution at the requirements level.
In the next post I will give you a closer look at how to create a Context Diagram and utilize it to get the requirements discovery rolling.
If you search this site using the keyword “objectives”, you will see my prior posts on the importance of documenting your Business and Project Objectives, as well as how to properly define them. Those posts framed objectives in the context of the Project Management process. Having the objectives defined is also critical in the requirements analysis process.
Here are some of the key reasons for knowing your Business and Project objectives in advance of your requirements analysis:
- Ensure that everyone on the project team understands the project vision. There is a saying in the military that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. That is also true for projects (where the “enemy” is usually time and resources). However, if everyone understands the commander’s intent (the “objectives”), then it is easier to change and adapt the plan. Conditions may make you unable to execute the original plan, but you are always responsible for achieving the commander’s intent.
- The Objectives guide everyone’s decision making. There are many decisions made each day on a project. They are made by everyone on the team, not just the management. Along with empowering people to make decisions, you must give them the tools to make the right decisions. Chief among those tools is making sure they know and understand the Business and Project Objectives.
- The Objectives are used to validate the Requirements Model. At the end of the first round of analysis, you will compare the results to the documented Project and Business Objectives. Do your requirements address all the deliverables in the Project Objectives? If not, another round of analysis is needed. Will the requirements achieve the Business Objectives? If not, understand why. Has your analysis revealed additional Project Objectives? If so, these must be addressed in your Change Management process in order to change your Project Charter.
In the next post I will define the Event Model, with subsequent posts addressing each element in detail.
Getting requirements right is a process. Your business stakeholders will rarely (if ever) be able to give you all of their requirements without some method of generating relevant questions to draw the requirements from them. What I am going to present in this and the following posts on this topic is NOT a new way to document your old thinking. It is a new way to think about requirements.
The deliverables created from this approach are:
- Identification of all processes in scope
- Documentation of the specific Use Cases for each process
- Identification of all of the stakeholders that interact with the business processes
- Creation of a framework with which you can generate and execute your test cases
Many analysts start and end their requirements elicitation with “functional requirements” (e.g. “I need to search by Last Name” or “Requests for time off need to be approved by the manager”). In the Event/Response/Use Case approach, functional requirements are derived from the Use Cases at the end of the analysis process.
The analysis sequence is as follows:
- Business Objectives
- Project Objectives (1st cut)
- Event Model
- Project Objectives (verified)
- Use Cases
- Functional Requirements
In the next post, I will discuss how the Business and Project Objectives are defined and used in the Event/Response methodology.
This is the start of a multi-part series on my favorite requirements elicitation technique: the Business Event/Response Analysis. Early versions of this methodology were developed in the late 1980’s by some of the great system development minds of that era. Since then it has evolved and I have adapted it to meet the needs of whatever organization for which I am working.
There are some that think you can gather requirements by just asking the sponsors and users “what do you want?”. Needless to say, this method will generate incomplete requirements and tends to start and end with functional requirements. In the latter half of the project when large requirements gaps are discovered, the sponsors/users blame the analyst and vice versa.
When I teach on this topic, I tell the analysts it is their responsibility to gather complete requirements. Given this, we need a method that will (1) generate the appropriate questions to ask, (2) ensure that we have the complete set of requirements, and (3) allow us to derive the functional requirements from the model.
The Business Event/Response method meets these desired outcomes. The advantages are:
- It helps the Business Analyst create the questions needed to draw the requirements from the Business Owner, even if the Analyst has no knowledge of the business area.
- It organizes the requirements in the context of Business Processes and Usage to promote better understanding.
- The output serves as a starting point for defining the testing scope and scenarios.
In the upcoming posts I will describe this method in detail.