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The 6 Ws (well, it’s actually 5 Ws and an H) are basic questions asked when gathering information. They are: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? Getting answers to these is integral to capturing the details when solving a problem because they require factual answers that can’t be Yes or No.
Think back to your school days. This approach was a key part of writing essays after all, if you answered all these questions, you could be assured that your essay was complete and that the reader would understand what you were intending to convey.
This approach can be useful when gathering business requirements, as well. Let’s look at each of these questions in the context of a requirements session. Recently, we were working with a paint manufacturer and interviewing their field sales representatives. These reps visit retail outlets and contractors on a regular basis to ensure product placement, check in on quality/training issues, and recommend new products to support marketing initiatives. They are required to make 30 visits a week, 40% of which should be retail outlets. To gather information, we asked the 6 Ws:
Who are you visiting?
We asked about categorization of retail outlets, the significance of one location versus others in the area, whether there was a need to contact the location for an appointment prior to arrival, etc. Answers to these questions could, for example, let us know we should be considering tracking appointments in Outlook, scheduling the maximum numbers of visits in a day, or even integrating mapping/routing to help the rep drive to each location in the most efficient manner.
What do you do when you get there?
When at an outlet, a rep performs a variety of tasks, such as checking inventory and scheduling a resupply order for products that sell the best, dropping off marketing material, and following up on a training class. They also hand out awards for monthly sales, get more information on a complaint about a bad batch of paint, etc. As we go through these questions, we may determine, for example, that a rep could benefit from a checklist of tasks to perform on each visit. Similarly, we may determine that the mobile app needs to provide an easy way to place a product order or schedule a call from the Training department.
Where are you working from?
The reps benefited from being online while at the location, although some preferred to enter notes, orders, etc. at the end of the day. This information helped us determine how robust the mobile app needs to be. Depending on the answers, we may, for example, end up advising the customer that reps could benefit from tablet devices.
When do you visit?
It may sound trivial, but things like working hours and vacation/holiday schedules all impact the system. Additionally, knowing the hours the system is expected to be available helps us when scheduling deployments.
Why did you visit this location?
Again, it may seem trivial, but taking into consideration reasons – things like a rep always visiting the biggest customers on the 1st Wednesday of the month or the fact that some visits are the result of following up on a training class – could ultimately help with scheduling. More importantly, understanding what the rep is supposed to be doing on a daily/monthly basis can help us be more strategic with the system and devise ways to use enterprise information to schedule visits for a rep.
How do you manage your visit?
This is where we shine. If they’re in a technological desert, where they take notes on paper and transcribe them into some system at the end of the day, we can devise intuitive, easy-to-use mobile or online forms to help them capture this information, along with quick tools (product order, schedule training, etc.) that can save time. Even if they’re already using D365, we can learn what changes/additions will help them daily.
Most of us are probably already asking these questions in some form or another, but it’s interesting that such an ancient method of information gathering (the usage of these questions have often been ascribed to Aristotle) still applies to our modern world and the art of business requirements for software development.
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