Sweet Meeting Smells:Three Things That SHOULD Be Said in a Software Requirements Meeting

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173510300_cd2491ae82_m.jpgThis second installment of Meeting Smells is a catalog of sweet smells. These are some key phrases that are good to hear in a requirements meeting. If you have any meeting smells of your own to offer, fair or foul, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

“I Want”
This is the essence of a requirement, but business folk often sugar coat this with phrases like “is it possible to…” or “can we..”.

Many engineers give the smartass response, “Anything is possible. How much time and money do you have?” Don’t say this. It’s confrontational and makes you sound like a jerk.

Requirements are all about desire. Desire to make new things. Desire to make better things. Don’t stifle that creative energy.

Let people ask for the sun and the moon: “I want a shopping experience that faster than our competitors’ “, “We want to process all three million records before the next billing cycle”, “I want a webserver on the moon”.

“Requirement” is such a harsh term, we should call them Desire Meetings.

“Maybe”
I use this one all the time to de-rail attempts to architect the project in the requirements meetings. It’s very easy to begin solving problems as soon as possible, and so requirements meetings very often turn into debates over implementation.

Whenever someone asks me a question like “Will we host this with our current billing provider”, or “Can this go into a spreadsheet somewhere, right?”, I simply answer, “maybe”.

You have no idea what the best solution is going to be this early in the project. Discussing details at this point is almost irresponsible. A noncommittal answer reinforces the dynamic nature of things at this point. Bite your tongue and be vague.

“I Get The Idea”
You don’t need every detail in requirements meeting. The goal is communication, not accounting. If you understand what the business owners are driving at, you’re fine.

Nobody can predict the future, so pressing for details at this point breeds conflict. Besides, the answers you get will be invalid in a week, when everyone changes their mind. Try to understand the overall business goals. You’ll find yourself anticipating the business’s needs before they ask. It’s like magic.



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