How many times have you heard this statement (or something like it)? Sometimes it seems so much easier to buy a software package than to spend the time thinking about what we need and how we want it to work. “There must be a package out there somewhere that we could use.” In many cases this is just wishful thinking. Although there are thousands of software packages for sale, more every day, the chances that a package will support your true business needs without customization is low. Of course, there are applications that follow standard processes like many accounting/bookkeeping applications. Those are great opportunities to use something that is already written. But even in those cases, we still need requirements.
I know that I am preaching to the choir when I tell Business Analysts that we still need to analyze and document requirements, even when we know that we are going to buy a package. How can we help others see the value? How can we convince our business stakeholders and management that they should give us some time to do some research, document requirements and find the package with the best fit for our organization? My answer is with questions. BAs are excellent at posing questions that help their stakeholders realize the importance of analysis. How well does the XYZ package support your underlying business function? How many users will it support? How much data can it hold? Are the reports useful? Easy to generate? Will our procedures/organizational structure have to change to use the new software? How much training will be required for users?
You know the drill, develop lots of questions and keep asking. When you see hesitation on the face of your executive sponsor or manager, quickly jump in and offer to help. “How about if I put together some ideas and try to answer some of these questions before we start the contracting process?” We continue to help our organizations understand the value of requirements analysis (and the value of Business Analysts!) when we ask good questions and then offer to help find answers.