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Requirements gathering: Using social media and collaboration tools

In this response, requirements expert Scott Sehlhorst discusses the three main uses he has identified for social media tools in the realm of requirements.

In what ways is the requirements gathering process helped or hindered by social media and collaboration tools?

There are three very different uses of social media tools that I've found to be effective for gathering requirements focused in the "understand your market" part of the process. The first use is in getting insights into your market, as an exploration tool for discovering the important market problems to be solved. The second use is in quantifying or characterizing behaviors and preferences that target customers have. The third use is in getting feedback about design approaches and candidate solutions.

Getting insights into your market is an open-ended exploration process, and you can accelerate this knowledge collection process by connecting with the people that already have an understanding of the space. You can ask your network for pointers to people with domain expertise in a particular space, or you can use search to discover important articles, conversations and authors; https://twitter.com/search-home is particularly effective once you uncover keywords and hashtags that people use to discuss the space. Your competitors may already have a social network presence, and you can find what they are saying and who they are conversing publicly with, and insert yourself in those conversations. When you take the approach of contributing to these conversations and sharing what you learn, you can form relationships with these people and participate in the community.

There's an old saying: "fish where the fish are," which, for gaining insight, means ask questions where your target personas are talking and willing to share. You can get qualitative data by forming relationships and talking directly with individuals. You can use that qualitative data to drive the creation of surveys that help you quantitatively characterize what you learn. With high levels of engagement, you can get statistically significant insights. Even without significance, you can collect data that informs your hypotheses.

For a comprehensive resource on social media, see Social media: A guide to enhancing ALM with collaborative tools.

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