You know what I love? When clients come to me and ask if I can “just make it better”. I love it because the answer is almost always “YES!”. We all know how much the business wants to hear that things are possible and being able to tell them that an arduous process can be streamlined always results in sighs of relief. I don’t even have to hear about the process to know that we can find some efficiency somewhere by automating part or all of it. Finding ways to improve a process is the purpose of the requirements gathering phase.
When I first sit down with a customer to discuss a specific process that needs to be overhauled, my first question is “What is your soundbite?”. A soundbite is shorter than an elevator speech and should be 1 or 2 sentences max. If a customer can’t sum up their process in 1 or 2 sentences, then that tells me they haven’t thought about it enough. I can still proceed with the requirements gathering, but it’s going to be more difficult. If you don’t know your process well enough to summarize it in a soundbite, then there is a risk that requirements could be missed. I’ll ask a lot of questions, but ultimately you are the process owner and the expert. You have the answers, I have the solutions, and together we will make the process better.
The soundbite gives me the big picture and I am a big picture person. That’s my learning style. I need to know what we are doing before I can understand how to do it. Once I know the overall process, I can start to ask questions about what gets done at each step. When we build, we build for the future. Part of my requirements gathering is to plant seeds and get the client to think about how the existing process could possibly integrate with other processes. New employee onboarding, for example. Would that need to integrate into your payroll platform so that the employee information can be automatically loaded by a flow rather than manually loaded by a person? By automating the data entry, you eliminate the risk of human error. I also ask my clients what their hopes and dreams are for their process. This gets them to talk about their pain points, which helps me identify areas of inefficiency.
Requirements gathering for me is a lot of fun because you focus on ideas rather than solutions. Process automation begins with a dream; a dream of a perfect solution that solves all your problems. By asking the right questions at the beginning, we can create the blueprint for a sleek, streamlined process that creates efficiency, accuracy, and accountability.
I truly believe that if you can dream it, you can build it.