So we have all heard of the saying “the devil is in the details”, right? But what does it really mean? This idiom actually derives from an earlier phrase “God is in the detail” which expresses the idea that whatever you do should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are very important. When it comes to business analysis that could not be a more true statement. Missed details = miss requirements = missed functionality = less value to the business. It all makes sense on the surface, but how does one actually ensure that details are not missed?
Here is one possible option you can try: notice everything. Okay, I know it sounds like a very tall order, if not downright impossible, but let me break it down for you. Early on in my business analysis career, I realized that I was not very good with details. Big picture yes, details no. When you consistently get questions like “What about this? What about that?” you know that your details are lacking and you are not achieving optimal results. Oh the shame, but I really did love being a business analyst, so I knew that I was going to have to get creative if I wanted greater success. I started to make it habit of noticing everything I could about everyone and my general environment. Why? Because I recognized that my ability to understand and manage my stakeholders actually increased my chances of not missing details.
So what kinds of things did I notice? What people wore, what they said, what they did not say, their body language, who they talked to, whom they did not talk to, new hairstyles, new cars, holidays, basically everything I could. How did I translate that into the details I needed? Take for example a very difficult stakeholder that I had to work with. They were not forthcoming with requirements, they were resistant to change, and they did not understand the role of the business analyst. Sound familiar? I started noticing who they talked to. I went and talked to those people to understand my stakeholder better. I was able to gain insight on why they were resistant to change. I noticed what the stakeholder had in their workspace. As a result I found out we had a shared interest in science fiction. It was the start of a beautiful friendship and a stakeholder relationship that over time blossomed into advocacy for the business analyst role, more thorough requirements definition, and ultimately business partners that saw greater value being delivered.
Will everything that you notice be of use? No, but you also never know when it might be useful. Do you have time to notice everything around you? I say it is foundational to your stakeholder relationship management, and you will achieve greater requirements success. So what have you noticed lately?