How to spot a Requirements Analyst


The next time you want to find the requirements analysts in your church (you don’t do this quarterly?), try this little trick.

Take the condiments from the church buffet line and put them in front of the hamburger buns.

An organized person will notice the discrepancy and discuss it with the people around them.

A process analyst will actually pick up the condiments and move them back, causing an immediate, though temporary, improvement in the efficiency of the line.

A requirements analyst — the kind of automation experts that we employ — will winsomely convince the buffet manager that everyone will benefit from reworking the buffet planning checklist so that this flaw in their queue management is never repeated.

Why use a Requirements Analyst?

Why hire an expert Requirements Analyst? Why not gather your own requirements internally?

Here are five reasons not to do it yourself:

  1. You’re in the box. You can’t even smell the cardboard anymore, much less describe it with a critical eye. An outsider will help you see yourselves objectively.
  2. The analyst has been here before. They’ve got the T-shirt,  understand the process and they already know what good requirements look like.
  3. Analysts are linear thinkers. These are people who get ill if the condiments are before the buns at the church picnic. Process thinking comes naturally to an analyst. You may or may not have honed that skill in your work.
  4. A good Requirements Analyst is also an experienced facilitator. There are different kinds of interviews to conduct: Executives, managers, staff, customers, etc. Our people can gather the essentials from each audience efficiently.
  5. You have better things to do. You had a full time job before this new project came along. Don’t you really want to leverage your strengths?

Using an experienced Requirements Analyst to systematically gather and document the features of your new system is a very efficient use of resources — yours and theirs.

The SWAG Dance

Long before we have a defined scope and a signed contract… someone will ask, “How much will this cost?”

When this happens during the first phone call, my answer is, “$19.95 plus shipping and handling – and shipping is free. It’s usually the handling charge that gets you.”


With the mood a little lighter, I’ll get a “No, seriously.”

Every company, large or small, wants to know how much something will cost before they invest in it. It’s natural. So we start with the “fives.”

“Based on what you’ve told me so far, Jim, I can give you an estimate that will be accurate within one order of magnitude. The good news is that this project will cost less than $500,000. The bad news is that it will cost more than $5,000. That puts us in the $50,000 range plus or minus a large percentage because we don’t have clarity yet.”

You’ll note that this is not very accurate. That’s intentional. The danger in giving Jim anything like real numbers at this point is that people remember them. Once we convey that a price range is “reasonable” – even with caveats – any higher figure becomes unreasonable later in the project… sowing the seeds of discontent.

If I think the project is on the small side (less than ginormous), I might use threes instead of fives. Still, the idea is to paint the outside borders of the budget and create a need in the customer’s mind for a finer degree of accuracy.

“But that doesn’t tell me anything,” Jim responds.

“Actually, it tells you three things, Jim. It tells you that (A) I don’t know what you want yet, (B) the project you’re describing has a wide range of possible prices and (C) you’re talking to a professional who won’t quote a firm price until he knows what you want.”

If the caller is serious, we can then move into a discussion of how to produce a good estimate, which will require discovery activity – the handling charge.