'Paper' Requirements

This post originally appeared July 16, 2012 on BetterProjects.net.

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you know what a fan I am of using Apple iOS devices in our jobs. At my company, nearly every activity manager on every project has an iPhone or iPad (often times both) and uses them for email, taking notes and tracking deliverables.

One area that they have not (yet) been as useful is in the realm of requirements. We are now starting to see some apps that, while they are not strictly requirements apps, they definitely can be used to help eliciting requirements. One of those is Paper by FiftyThree.com. This app is sold as a drawing app, but even for people like myself who draw so poorly that they embarrass their own stick figures, it is an awesome requirements tool.

A month or so ago, while in a working session with our marketing team, we ran across a situation where no one could quite nail exactly how a requirement should look in the system when we implemented it. We knew what it should do, but every idea we had come up with far had some kind of limitation that made it a no-go.

I had this idea that I thought would work, but needed to get it out of my head so that everyone in the room could see it. I opened up Paper, did a quick 30 second sketch that the meeting participants saw and we nailed the requirement. Everyone said ‘save that picture!’ because it hit the exact feel we were looking for with this functionality.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking… Ted, its called a pencil and a piece of paper. Yes, this could have been done that way, but what you are not seeing yet is what I did next… I emailed my graphic to the BA in charge of the meeting. Sure, I could have handed him the piece of paper, but his requirements documentation was not on nor would ever be on a piece of paper. His requirements lived a digital life. By creating this drawing digitally, it meant the BA didn’t have to do any translation between hand drawing and digital copy. It removed a barrier, albeit a small one, between mediums to make the BA’s life just a slight bit easier.

So I challenge you all to pick up a digital drawing app and see how you can incorporate it into your next requirements elicitation session.