If there’s a constant companion to the Business Analyst, it’s the humble “requirement.” Throughout the your Business Analyst career you will learn everything there is to know about requirements. But what is a requirement, exactly?
If you are interviewing for a Business Analyst position, you are very likely to get a question about requirements. Whether or not you have dealt with requirements in your past work experiences, you had better prepare yourself with a minimum of information about requirements so that you can intelligently answer the question.
So here are three essential things that anyone interviewing for a Business Analyst position should know about requirements.
1) What is a requirement?
Let’s start with the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), version 3. As we know, that is one of the most important guides available to BA’s. BABOK defines a requirement as “a usable representation of a need.” What a deceptively simple definition this is, but what does it mean?
A representation is a description or portrayal of something, in this case a need. A need is a desired state, function, or feature that a business wants to make happen, and which doesn’t exist today. A usable representation is one where there is a reasonable chance that we can get the representation to happen, i.e. it cannot be impossible to create or totally unobtainable; the representation must be realistic and useful in concretely describing whatever we want to happen.
So a requirement is basically a description of something reasonably achievable that a business would like to see happen in the world, which doesn’t exist right now.
Now that you can answer “what is a requirement,” it helps to supplement your answer with a bit more information to show your understanding.
2) Why do you need requirements?
Imagine a software developer sitting at his desk. His boss walks in and says “I want you to build a new mobile app by close of business tomorrow.” Mmm-kay, says the developer. He asks his boss what the app should look like.
“I don’t know, just do it” the boss replies.
“What platform should it run on?”
“What should the user interface contain?”
“WHAT DO YOU WANT THE APP TO DO???”
“I don’t know, figure it out! Just get it done by tomorrow.” The boss walks off.
What do you think happens next, besides the developer quitting his job? It’s certainly not the creation of an app. But the developer might go looking for a Business Analyst!
Now you know why we need requirements.
If there is any change a business wants to create, or a problem it wants to solve, no technology or other solution in the world will help unless the business (that’s YOU) can thoroughly describe in useful terms what you want the change or solution to be. The set of requirements must describe as thoroughly and accurately as possible the change that the business would like to achieve. Failure to do so is almost a guarantee that what the business gets as a solution is not what it really wanted. (Sadly, this happens all too frequently due to not having sufficient requirements.)
3) How do you figure out what the requirements should be?
Requirements aren’t built in a vacuum, nor are Business Analysts expected to just “figure it out.” On the other hand, they’re also not easy to ascertain. That is because the business doesn’t always have a clear idea about what it really wants.”
The process of obtaining requirements is called requirements elicitation. Requirements elicitation describes the process in which a Business Analyst gathers the needs as expressed by business owners, users, executives, and other stakeholders. The Business Analyst then distills those needs into clearly written requirements to guide solution development. Where the stakeholders aren’t being clear on what they really want, it’s the Analyst’s responsibility to ask the right questions to resolve confusion and make the choices necessary to create the best solution.
The process of requirements elicitation can take various forms. The most common is the stakeholder interview, where the Analyst conducts a Question and Answer session to gather business needs. Business Analysts frequently use questionnaires to assess business needs, often as a precursor to the interview.
There you have it. If an interviewer asks “what is a requirement” during a Business Analyst interview, you know how to answer. You should address what requirements are, why they matter, and how you obtain them. That will show that you possess the bare minimum knowledge you need to help ace your interview!