Requirements Writer’s Block


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Requirements writer’s block – it happens to all of us at some point.  Writer’s block is a condition where an author loses the ability to produce new work.  Requirements writer’s block may happen for several reasons including: a lack of concentration, a feeling that our work is inferior, general feelings of anxiety, lack of inspiration, or perhaps we are struggling, simply because the project we are working on was ill conceived.  RWB (because I had to give it an abbreviation, right?) is both common and frustrating.  We have deadlines looming, stakeholders wondering whether we have captured the requirements correctly, the developers anxious to start the design phase and we come down with a case of RWB.  I want you to know that you are not alone!  Here are some tips to get you past the difficult moments.

1.  Find the right environment to concentrate.  Requirements writing is an art form in and of itself, and as such requires lots of concentration and long periods of uninterrupted analysis time.  What happens when you are at your desk trying to write?  “Do you have a moment?”  “Ring!”  “Text” “Are you busy?” “Can I ask a quick question?” As well as listening to the conversations around you and all of the annoying little work environment sounds…

Get away from your desk!  Book a conference room, take a laptop with you, and spend an afternoon of solitude with your requirements.  Can you work from home?  If your company allows you to work from home occasionally (or even if you do on a regular basis) it is a great environment for writing as well.  However, make sure that the children, pets, phone, and other things that can easily distract you are taken into account too or it will feel exactly like you are at work in your cube.

2. Let go of perfection.  We spend a lot of time on our requirements, perhaps too much time initially.  It is pretty common to see business analysts trying to perfect the requirements right out of the gate only to have the requirements be ripped to shreds immediately in the first review.  Requirements constantly change for many reasons.  It is logical to think that no matter how well they are written, a lot of them will be changed early on during reviews and as requirements are progressively elaborated.

Be thoughtful, be organized, but do not initially spend hours and hours on grammar and requirements structure for requirements that are likely to change.  Your work is not inferior by spending less time in the beginning on requirements writing perfection.  This is an iterative process and that perfection will happen by the time you have your formal requirements signoff.

3. Have the courage to challenge appropriately.  What this has to do with RWB is that RWB can happen when we might have concerns about the direction of a project – when we know there is a better direction to go that adds more business value.  When we feel more comfortable with the direction and the deliverable we have less anxiety, we are more inspired by, and completely vested in the work.  If you do not ask you will never know.  Asking respectful questions and challenging appropriately is part of who we are as business analysts and will also help keep us focused.  The more focus… the less chance of RWB.

What strategies have you employed to remove RWB?  Joint requirements writing with another business analyst?  Taking breaks?  Skip the section you were working on – mixing it up?  Re-evaluate…?  Share with your friends and colleagues your tips for preventing RWB.  We want to hear about your requirements writing success!

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