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Requirements Engineering at Digital Agencies

By Juan Córdoba, Javier Acuña and David Alvarez   Many times, the projects developed by digital agencies require more work – in terms of requirements management and definition – than there seems time to do it. The fact that projects are scoped at a really fast pace means that it is imperative to have an agile process that Read more

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By Juan Córdoba, Javier Acuña and David Alvarez

 

Many times, the projects developed by digital agencies require more work – in terms of requirements management and definition – than there seems time to do it. The fact that projects are scoped at a really fast pace means that it is imperative to have an agile process that allows us to reach alignment, in terms of requirements definition, amongst all parties involved: Client Strategists, Business Analysts, Architects, Designers, Developers, Testers, and yes, of course, The Client!
Due to the fact that almost all products are digital – that is, compounds of visual and logical pieces of software – they must be conceived using a software engineering process that includes a stage of analysis and documentation of what the clients need.

That might sound not excessively complicated, right? After all, requirements gathering standards have been around forever… So it’s simple, right?

Wrong!

Once you start finding the enormous amount of assets, deliverables, standards, processes, and most importantly (for business analysts, maybe) new terminology like comps, wireframes, visual proposals, collateral design, Flash, Flex, Responsive Web Design, animatics, security libraries, etc… It can all start to get, well, messy.

To make this process as efficient as possible, there are some milestones that should be kept in mind when defining a project. First of all, after the Client Strategist has identified an opportunity, an initial definition is reached between him/her and the Business Analyst; this is generally achieved by 1) a Project Brief: a document containing basic information that allows the Business Analyst to start understanding the project, and 2) an alignment call between the Client Strategist and the Business Analyst, where main questions are answered and features to be included in the project are defined.

The next step takes place when transferring the project information to the production team; made up of representatives of all disciplines in the company. There, through a collaborative effort, the missing parts of the project definition are identified, and you are ready to present a solution that will most definitely fulfill the client’s expectations.

The challenge is that all of this has to happen within a span of no more than three days. Sounds like a lot of time? Think of it this way: In software houses, the requirements definition phase can take weeks or even months; digital agencies must keep the pace of their market and stay strong while keeping agile. On top of that digital agencies usually deal with several projects at once, and there are typically less staffing resources than would be ideal.

There are different strategies that can help in agile requirements definition, mainly the description of requirements using “light” documents like Feature Lists, using experience from prior projects and, most importantly, having the entire team involved and providing insight from the beginning of the project, straight through completion. With more minds involved, more ideas come and more solutions will arise.

Like adrenaline? Tired of parachuting or snowboarding to get your kicks? Try switching with a BA at your agency. It will be a fun ride, for sure!

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