requirements elicitation

Article - 3 Real-Life Examples of Critical Thinking When Eliciting Requirements

Another absolutely crucial aspect of requirements elicitation that, in the author's opinion, requires a complete overhaul of one's brain. The problem here lies in the fact that sentences and expressions that would appear to be absolutely normal and acceptable by regular people, must be met with a due portion of skepticism and questioning by the project managers.

I always joke with my project management training attendees that by the end of the first day they will all be turned from "homo sapiens" into the "homo projectus" because they will undergo a psychological breakthrough and develop certain allergies in the course of the class that will be considered abnormal by the rest of their coworkers and family members. Let us look at some examples.

Unspecified Information - Does the phrase "we get sales reports" seem like a normal and acceptable thing to say? After all we do hear it all the time when we chat with executives, sales, marketing and business development people all the time.

Imagine now that you are in charge of developing a system that will among other things provide the business development department with sales reports.  A "normal" person upon hearing the phrase "we get sales reports" will probably just nod his or her head, write down something along the lines of "provide sales reports to the business development team" in her notebook and move on to the next questions.

"Home projectus" on the other hand will (and should) explode with the following questions upon hearing that statement (see Table 1).

Table 1 - Unspecified Information

We ask these questions because we need to know:

  • Who specifically will be getting these reports
  • How and in what format will these reports be transferred to the readers
  • What constitutes a sales report and how many types of reports exist


The readers of this article are encouraged to examine Tables 2 and 3 for some further examples - by the way all taken out of real project management documents - of unspecified comparisons and generalizations.

Table 2 - Unspecified Comparison