Possibly the most effective method for eliciting requirements is the Discovery Session: a facilitated workshop with carefully selected stakeholders and subject matter experts held in order to collaboratively and collectively define the requirements for a product. Successful discovery sessions rely on a well-defined division of roles and responsibilities. Each participant brings unique expertise, contributing to a holistic understanding of the project’s goals, scope, and requirements. Most sessions require someone to play, and take the responsibility to represent, at least the first five roles. However, not every Requirements Discovery Session will necessarily require a unique participant assigned for each of these roles. It is common, especially on smaller initiatives, that participants wear multiple hats. In any case, understanding your roles and responsibilities will ensure productive sessions and satisfying outcomes for all involved.

Discovery Session Roles

Here is an overview of key roles and their responsibilities:

  • Facilitator
    (Typically a senior business analyst or consultant experienced in methods for eliciting and modeling requirements)

    • Orchestrates the session, ensuring it stays focused and productive
    • Guides participants through discussions and activities
    • Keeps the session on-time and on-track
    • Encourages active participation and diverse viewpoints
    • Captures key insights, decisions, and action items
  • Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
    (carefully selected participants invited to share their understanding and opinions of both the current state and, most importantly, the desired capabilities, features, and use of the product)

    • Share deep domain knowledge and insights
    • Clarify complex concepts and provide context
    • Answer questions related to their area of expertise
    • With the product owner and users, explain the use case scenarios for the product
    • Help to define or clarify any ambiguity of terms, business rules, or process
    • Collaborate with others to refine ideas and requirements
    • Help bridge the gap between technical and non-technical participants
  • Product Owner or Project/Business Sponsor
    (the primary representative of the customer with ultimate responsibility for, and ownership of, the requirements)

    • Explains the business drivers for the product – the problems or opportunities the product is intended to solve
    • Shares their vision and objectives for the product
    • With the SMEs and users, explain the use case scenarios for the product
    • The ultimate decision-maker on the prioritized requirements
  • Business Analysts
    (the individuals – by title or role – experienced in the necessary analysis, modeling, and management duties required for the initiative)

    • Drive the requirements definition and management process
    • Prepare and presents relevant materials, models, and documentation
    • Complement the facilitator with additional probing questions to extract detailed information
    • Record and documents session discussions, decisions, and requirements
    • Ensure alignment between stakeholders’ needs and project goals
  • Customers / End Users
    (actual users or their representatives who understand their issues and needs)

    • Explain the needs and preferences of the intended users
    • Offer insights into user behaviors, expectations, and pain points
    • With the product owner and SME, explain the use case scenarios for the product
    • Provide feedback on proposed features or solutions
    • Collaborate to ensure user-centric design and functionality

And optionally, some sessions may also require these attendees:

  • Designer / UX Specialist
    • Contributes to discussions on user experience and interface design
    • Offers insights on visual aesthetics, usability, and interaction flow
    • Translates user needs into intuitive and appealing design concepts
    • Collaborates with other participants to balance design and functionality
  • Developer / Technical Expert
    • Advises on technical feasibility and constraints
    • Provides input on architecture, integrations, and technology choices
    • Helps refine requirements into actionable development tasks
    • Identifies potential challenges and suggests innovative solutions
  • Project Manager
    • Oversees the session to ensure it aligns with project objectives
    • Manages expectations and communicates project constraints
    • Tracks progress and ensures action items are assigned and followed up on
    • Facilitates communication and collaboration among participants
  • Business Leadership/Stakeholders
    • Contribute insights into strategic goals, priorities, and constraints
    • Offer feedback on proposed solutions from a high-level perspective
    • Provide input on business impacts, timelines, and resource allocation

By understanding and embracing their distinct roles and responsibilities, participants in a discovery session create a dynamic and collaborative environment that leads to successful and productive Requirements Discovery Sessions. This synergy helps ensure a comprehensive understanding of project needs and sets the stage for successful planning and execution.



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