Structured Walkthrough Sessions: Why Bother?

The Relevance

Structured walkthrough sessions bring stakeholders like developers and business users together to ensure that all parties understand what is required and that there are no missing requirements when a solution is deployed. These sessions also provide a platform for validating the analyst’s understanding of what is required in the final solution. Like any other elicitation event, the business analyst should act as the facilitator to ensure that the ground rules are observed and that the objectives of the session are met.

The purpose of a structured walkthrough session is to report, verify, and validate requirements. This process helps involved stakeholders like developers and business users, understand the problem at hand and identify other requirements that should be taken into consideration. It’s important to keep in mind that structured walkthrough is a process for reviewing and obtaining agreement—not correcting the detected shortcomings. Participants may find errors and improve the quality of requirements through their input—improvements may then be made after the session.

The typical participants in a structured walkthrough session are the author of the document under review, typically a business analyst, a presenter, a moderator, reviewers, and a scribe. Usually, the author also acts as the presenter and the moderator and is involved in developing the agenda for the walkthrough, ensuring that the walkthrough agenda is followed, and encouraging participating reviewers to voice their opinions.

The most obvious benefit of gathering stakeholders with different backgrounds in a single room is the increased chance of spotting defects in requirements before development or implementation begins. Structured walkthrough sessions also raise awareness about different development or maintenance methodologies.

How To Organize & Hold A Structured Walkthrough Session

Before commencing a structured walkthrough, it’s important to fulfill several prerequisites. Start with listing all the reviewers you would like to attend the walkthrough. These should be the representatives who contributed to the requirements and are affected by it, as well as representatives of the sponsor and end users. Provide every reviewer with a copy of the documents to be reviewed well in advance so that the session will be more productive.

Secure a suitable location for the structured walkthrough session and develop an agenda in which you outline the activities that will take place during the session. Keep in mind that reviewers typically don’t want to spend too much time reviewing requirements, so try to use the time you have as efficiently as possible. Planning the session to hold for too long could easily lead to boredom, which would make it more difficult to invite participants to structured walkthrough sessions in the future.

Start the session by introducing participants and reviewing the objectives of the session. This is a good time to set some rules for the session, such as that participants must not interrupt each other or criticize each others’ ideas. During the session, ensure that the scribe takes notes and records the comments made by other participants in the session. Before participants leave the session, make sure they understand they just gave you the okay to proceed, provided a consensus was reached.

Conclusion

The chances are that you might not have the luxury to bring everyone you would like together as recommended. You should however be ready to improvise and rely on your knowledge and experience to make the most out of whatever cards you’re dealt on that day.