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Online requirements gathering workshopsThe Up Side of Online Requirements Gathering Workshops

Do you think that the time has come for virtual requirements gathering workshops? I mean, think about the advantages:

  1. They can be held anywhere, anytime (as long as all required participants have access to the web).
  2. They offer a new dimension in instant, electronic documentation (capture–as–you–speak).
  3. Virtual sessions save a ton of travel costs (that should get the bean–counters on board).
  4. They can be split into short sessions (1 – to 2 hours) because people do not have to travel to get to them.
  5. The previous 3 points mean that virtual sessions are environmentally friendly (that should get the environmental vote — maybe we should call them “green meetings”).
  6. They are safer by far (no risk of airplane, train, or automobile accidents if you don’t travel!)
  7. They are healthier (proven to limit the spread of viruses — I mean, the human kind, not electronic. Given the variety of bugs currently circulating around the world, this one alone would be enough to cause me to give this technology a try.)
  8. They are reasonably weather–independent (no more nights snowed in at airports, hallelujah!).
  9. They are considerably less intrusive on your private life.
  10. Nearly everyone has become accustomed to virtual meetings in some form or the other.
  11. Everyone involved can access and share any kind of electronic material to emphasize the need for a specific requirement (or to refute it).

This is starting to sound like it is a too–good–to–be–true idea, which usually means it’s a scam. What, then, are the disadvantages?

The Down Side

Obviously, there are significant disadvantages that need to be weighed to decide if virtual requirements gathering workshops are for you:

  1. People miss the face-to-face dimension (camaraderie, synergy, socializing – we are, after all, still human).
  2. Jokes and humor are riskier on–line (and never underestimate their role in human communication).
  3. Because you cannot read peoples’ body language (non-verbal communication), there is a higher potential for misinterpretation — both ways.
  4. People do not always stay on task in the session (unless they are well facilitated).
  5. Some people enjoy traveling to new places to see airports and hotel rooms they have never seen before.
  6. It is difficult for some to express their thoughts in front of people they cannot see.

I must be biased because I cannot come up with as many bads as goods and I can think up a virtual way of combating every bad on the list. If you have tried virtual requirements gathering workshops and would like to share your experiences (good or bad), please email me ( and share.

What’s in It for You?

The ultimate goal of virtual requirements meetings is, of course, a requirements document. Why is that important? This little mnemonic might help:

R is for the ramifications of trying to do without me.

E is for everything you didn’t know you should ask for.

Q is for the queer way you look at the developer when you get the system he thought you needed.

U is for the uselessness of trying to make an ill–designed solution work anyway.

I is for the interesting things you discover while trying to do what you thought the system should do.

R is for the revisions you have to request before you can use it.

E is for everyone who is disappointed with the solution.

M is for the money that you spent to get the system you did not want.

E is for the effort expended on developing the wrong solution.

N is for your “No” in response to the developer when he asks you to accept the system.

T is for the testing that was neglected to meet the deadline.

S is for success that you expected to be yours in the end.

Put them all together and they spell “REQUIREMENTS”. It’s the first thing you try to do without and the last thing you can afford to skip. Remember, getting requirements does not have to be painful or costly. Actually, the most expensive option is not having good requirements. Call us if you would like training or help in conducting virtual requirements gathering workshops.

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