Bulletproof Business Requirements
As a digital analytics professional, you’ve probably been tasked with collecting business requirements for measuring a new website/app/feature/etc. This seems like a task that’s easy enough, but all too often people get wrapped around the axle and fail to capture what’s truly important from a business users’ perspective. The result is typically a great deal of wasted time, frustrated business users, and a deep-seated distrust for analytics data. All of these problems can be avoided by following a few simple rules for collecting and validating business requirements.
Rule #1: Set Proper Expectations for What’s Really Worth Measuring
You’ve heard the saying from Albert Einstein…Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. Well, Einstein was ahead of his time when it comes to digital analytics. There is an understandable tendency to measure everything, but this certainly doesn’t help when it comes to sifting through data to determine the effectiveness of your digital efforts. In many cases, less is more. Remember that collecting business requirements creates the foundation for developing KPIs to gauge effectiveness of your digital efforts. And, if you’re reading my colleague Tim Wilson’s blog, you know that the “K” in “KPI” is not for “1,000”!
So, the first rule in gathering effective business requirements is sitting down with your business user counterparts and explaining to them that their new digital asset should be measured on the merits of what it’s designed to accomplish with as few metrics as possible. In plain english, you should ask the question, What is this new thing of yours supposed to do? Once you have the answer to that question, you can start digging into the real meat of what’s needed in terms of measuring its performance. Most business users don’t want to spend hours analyzing and interpreting data, so this rule allows you to set the expectation that you can save them time and headaches by distilling the metrics down into the most salient measures.
In my experience I’ve found that asking your stakeholders to do a little homework prior to meeting will help these conversations go much more smoothly. By prompting them with probing questions about which elements of their digital asset are critical and setting expectations about what digital analytics can do well, you will have a much more productive requirements gathering session.
Rule #2: Break Requirements Down into Manageable Categories
When asked which specific things a business user wants to measure on their shiny new digital asset, the conversation usually goes something like this…
What data would you like to collect about your new website/app/feature/etc…?
- Business User:
I don’t know, what do you have?
Well, we can collect anything you want, if you just tell me what it is that you want to know.
- Business User:
Okay, I want to know everything…
So, everything is important?
- Business User:
- Business User:
Asking business users what they want to measure — or what data they need — is truly a difficult question to answer. As an analyst, you have to put yourself in their shoes and lead them into data collection conversation with some guidance. I recommend the approach of breaking your measurement requirements down into categories that can be addressed one at a time. In many cases, there will be different stakeholders who want to know different things about their digital asset and the category approach helps you to generate a comprehensive list of requirements while considering everyone’s feedback. The table below illustrates a handful of requirement categories and corresponding questions that a business user might want to know.
The exact categories and business questions will vary based on the digital asset you’re measuring so be sure to customize the categories to take into consideration when you’re measuring a mobile app, checkout feature, or entire website.
Rule #3: Verify Requirements and Provide Example Reports
My third rule for verifying requirements is often overlooked by analysts because it is both time consuming and labor intensive. But, if you do take the time to do this, you’ll not only ensure that you have the right requirements, but that you may also save yourself a lot of work in the long run.
Once you’ve solicited requirements from all stakeholders, go through the exercise of prioritizing and de-duping your list so that you can identify what’s really important. Once you receive stakeholder approval for your list, you should then take the next step of providing an example of the reports that business users will receive once you’re live with data collection. This helps because while you may have a solid understanding of how the data will be represented, you’re typically working with users who aren’t equipped to visualize the output of your requirements. As such, providing a mock-up of an analytics report that shows the key data points you will collect helps to validate that you’ve got the right information. Use this process to also ask stakeholders if they will be able to make decisions about their digital asset given the reports you’re providing. If the answer is no, then you need to keep working on the requirements.
By taking this extra step, you’re not only ensuring that you understood the business requirements, but also providing the opportunity to refine your metrics to capture critical decision-making data. Not only will you impress your stakeholders with your proactive approach, but you’ll also avoid having to go back and implement tracking on something that they may have overlooked during your discovery process.
In summary, collecting business requirements for digital analytics is no easy task. It takes a process to illicit good information and it takes some analytical foresight to visualize the results. These are skills that take time to master, but once you get them right, you’ll be on your way to providing the most useful and pertinent data to your business colleagues.
If you’d like to learn more about gathering bulletproof business requirements, please send me an email. Or better yet, join me for a half-day workshop on Requirements Gathering the Demystified Way in Atlanta prior to Analytics Demystified’s ACCELERATE conference, where I will go into detail about what it takes to gather requirements and teach you all the tips and tricks of the trade.