Eight rules of elicitation

Sherlock Holmes

Elicitation is a process of figuring out what someone else wants you to do. Developers and engineers are useless if they are not able to elicit. No matter how talented they are they need to figure out what they need to do. A business analyst can do it for them, but it is best if they help.

Agile is becoming the dominant methodology in sales and marketing where production is constantly accelerating. To support these changes we suggest following elicitation tips:

1) Understand the customer (end user). You will understand your stakeholders better if you understand the customer. Who are they and what values they accept?

2) Identify the stakeholders. These are the people you need to elicit from, the people for whom you are working and who need to approve your work.

3) Use many elicitation methods. Elicitation can take many forms: interviews, emails, asking stakeholders to fill in tables, spreadsheets, forms, etc.

4) Minimum 10 % of the developer’s work time should be elicitation. Optimal is 20 %. If you are using less, you are doing it wrong.

5) Elicitation is not a single event, but an iterative and constant process. Always start with elicitation and keep on sending drafts to initiate quick feedback as much as you can.

6) Remember that you are eliciting from imperfect humans. Help your stakeholders as much as possible to tell you what they need. Do not expect perfectly useful feedback.

7) Never start with a meeting. Always start with emails and documents. Use meetings only when nothing else works and for high quality information only.

8) The more you do it, the better you will be. It takes years to improve your elicitation skills. Start now.

Written by: Nikola Tosic
Publishing date: 23 Jul 2018