Prototyping: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

3 min read
8/25/22 2:02 AM

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Many customer requests are complicated, involving complete end-to-end solutions. In many cases adding to the complexity is that these solutions must be integrated into an existing system. This article focuses on complex requests and the use of experience design tools to support the BA in meeting customer goals.

The Business Analyst approach to elicitation matters for the BA to demonstrate understanding of a request, work at speed, and gain consensus.

The BA approach should support continuous communications, speedy responses, common understanding, risk mitigation, and collaboration across distance and time. In the case of complex requests where the analyst writes detailed requirements up front, this may, in fact, result in miscommunications, reduced speed, and restrained collaboration. Most customers are business managers where an approach that generates upfront details may overwhelm the customer and obscure the end-to-end solution view putting the customer and BA in a “can’t see the forest from the trees” scenario.

Approach selection typically determines how efficiently and effectively the BA meets the customers’ needs which in most cases is to demonstrate to the customer “you heard me”, “show me what I requested”, and “prove progress toward a solution”. IIBA’s BABOK defines knowledge areas containing strategies, guidelines, and techniques that provide an array of approaches to elicitation.

One efficient technique is the use of a prototype. It is said, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Prototyping is a proven method for product design and helps a great deal in providing an early model of the final result, known as a prototype.

Prototyping, in this case, will highlight the use of experience design tools for web and mobile apps in support of elicitation activities for complex requests. Complex requests are an indicator of the use of prototypes.

The use of an experience design tool is typically cloud-based, supporting collaboration and communications. These types of tools also support a big picture view giving the customer the ability to experience what the solution might be without the time and development expense.

There are several industry-leading experience design tools that support wireframing and solution prototyping, such as Balsamiq, Lucidchart, Adobe XD, Figma, Procreate, Webflow, etc.

Prototyping - A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words-1

Here, users do not experience databases, integrations, or technical details. Instead, they impact them; however, the user experiences UI’s, workflows, processes, features, and functions. Prototypes encourage common understanding by supporting the ability of the customer to walk through the solution model that incorporates UI’s, processes, workflows, and features and functions.

Experience Design tools provide the ability for the business analyst to document requirements in the form of a prototype and depict user flows/user journeys at the beginning of the design process to gain clarity around the whole project. The value of an experience design tool is that it supports the BA’s ability to create a simulated solution that

  • the customers may walk through, make comments, suggest changes, discover the unexpected, use for demonstration purposes, and more…
  • the technical team may also walk through the proposed solution by asking questions, making suggestions, prioritizing work, planning technical details, and coming to a common agreement using documented requirements.
  • the BA can plan and write the requirements from the customer-approved prototype without leaving out any details. Furthermore, the prototype assets (i.e., UI’s, processes…..) can be reused in the documented requirements to provide the needed details.

In conclusion, experience design tools can reduce misunderstanding, encourage communications and collaboration, support progress, and more. Consider adding experience design tool skills to your BA toolbox and learn how to use them and when to use them.

A picture is undoubtedly worth a thousand words!

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