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How a Background in Science Prepared Me for Software Requirements Part III: A Practice in Understanding

Beyond helping me apply reductionism to requirements elicitation and pushing me to identify and understand underlying relationships, my background in science has also prompted me to always evaluate the reason that business processes and solutions exist.

There is a phrase that I’ve picked up while reading some works in philosophy: raison d’etre, or reason for existence. I’ve always liked it, not because French is a very pretty language, but because it reminds that there is reasoning behind everything.

Understanding the why and how things exist is a huge part of scientific exploration. I started applying this phrase more intensely while trying to gain a deeper understanding of neuroscience. When taking a biology course, you tend to get a lot of terms thrown at you. Sometimes it is really easy to just memorize all the information. This approach is nice if you only care to pass the test, but I believe that one will never gain a true understanding or appreciation of any if they don’t ask the question “why?” about the subject material.

This approach has worked out wonderfully for me, as every new topic learned became another opportunity to determine its reason for existence. I was so interested in the outcomes of these little thought experiments that I started applying them to everyday life. It can be exhausting, and I find myself disliking advertisements more and more each year, but overall it has really helped me gain an appreciation for a lot of things.

Now, why is this relevant to being a requirements analyst? Questioning the reasoning behind a business process or solution feature will only give you more of an understanding of what needs to be done or built.

Analyze for Efficiency

As a consultant, it is my job to understand the subject material to the best of my ability, so that I am able to ask questions  that add value during elicitation or make suggestions about what features may or may not be necessary. Do this at a granular enough level and you might find yourself questioning the reasoning behind a process step or feature. Finding and eliminating redundant or unnecessary elements will undoubtedly make the whole more efficient. For many of Seilevel’s customers, this translates to identifying redundant or unnecessary requirements, steps in business processes, or features; which might have cost the customer unnecessary expenses.

Approaching elicitation with a scientific mind that’s always prepared to ask “why?” can ultimately reveal processes and features that need more attention or others that are inefficient.

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