A sensitive subject

Happiness lies neither in vice nor in virtue; but in the manner we appreciate the one and the other, and the choice we make pursuant to our individual organization.”
Marquis de Sade
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The gathering of requirements can be a very sensitive phase of an OSS, particularly in large organisations. The decision of who gets the right to provide input, who gets priority in conflicting situations, who has what influence at certain stages of the implementation process, etc.

When you are an external implementer or consultant, you should stay removed from these sensitivities but your OSS outcomes are inextricably entwined with your ability to navigate them. You can’t just ignore the problems.

Ultimately the outcome will depend on a strong guiding coalition, which is often not available, leaving responsibility with the organisation’s project / implementation team. This isn’t good enough. Your guiding coalition must be deeply engaged on your OSS project or you shouldn’t start.

The guiding coalition must set the tone for the importance of the project, establish the business objectives and determine which business units need to have inputs into requirement gathering.

I find that it’s important to follow a process like the following (dependent upon project scope of course):

  • Identify stakeholders (via the guiding coalition)
  • Prepare and circulate a base-level questionnaire to the stakeholders
  • Hold individual or group workshops based around the questionnaire (to enable stakeholders to come prepared, or at least not fear the unknown)
  • Document and circulate the feedback, with quotes only referenced by their business unit, not individual’s names, allowing stakeholders to correct any misunderstandings
  • Prepare a draft set of requirements (using the standardised template I’ve developed and refined over the years) that the stakeholders can collectively prioritise (mandatory, preferred, optional)
  • Publish the finalised set of requirements, which become the baseline for your OSS project

Hopefully this helps you to avoid the mini-landmines (MLM) along the way.

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