Templates are not the answer, but they are the question. What do I mean by this? They will not solve all your problems by themselves, but they will help you find the problems. Even if your organization has standard templates, there’s no law stating you cannot use a template for your own work and integrate your answers (or requirements) into a different template later on. The advantage of a template is to get you to think about what you are working on, and to remind you of questions you can ask while you elicit the information. The more the template can help you with that mission, the more effective the template is. Check out B2T’s template offerings for suggestions on how to enhance yours.
Case in point. Pilots follow checklists for just about everything they do regarding a flight. Pre-flight, engine-start, pre-takeoff, etc. There are a lot of tasks they must do to prep the airplane prior to a flight (and yes, even in a small private airplane, the FAA states passengers must receive a seatbelt briefing). Experienced pilots know this information and can probably recite it in their sleep, at least to a 95% effectiveness. But do you want that pilot to be 95% effective when rolling down the runway taking off? Just prior to takeoff, the pilot follows a checklist to check the alternator, adjust the flight instruments, choose the fuel tank, ensure the fuel pump is on, check engine gauges, set carburetor heat, ensure the mixture is properly set, the primer knob is locked, flaps are set, trim is set, etc. Which one of those things is OK to forget? Would you want to leave it up to memorization for the pilot? Certainly not. The pilot has a very heavy workload getting the airplane ready for takeoff, so there might be one thing forgotten, and that one thing could cause disaster when taking off. So that nothing gets forgotten, they follow a template (called a checklist) in which each instruction is laid out in sequence as to what must be followed. By doing so, no step is forgotten.
As BAs, we are not likely to bring down an aircraft by forgetting a task, but we can cause a failure in the project. It’s our job to step through the templates so we are reminded of questions to ask surrounding the project. Just one forgotten question about an interface or system or stakeholder can cause delays or defects or missed requirements. And that costs organizations time and money and may mean working through weekends or overtime for you (not pleasant if you’re a salaried worker).
So use templates to help you remember questions to ask about a particular project, even if you’re a seasoned BA. Find the template that works for you, keeping in mind that the template you use may not be the official one for your organization. You can always capture your information in the unofficial template, and transfer it over when the time comes. Or, you can develop the questions you want to ask from the template so you capture the information you need for your official template.
What templates have you used that help you develop questions for your projects? Have you modified them to suit your needs and do you find yourself constantly modifying them to continue to remain effective tools?