Pulling Business Requirements Out of Thin Air

Session Title

Pulling Business Requirements Out of Thin Air


Russ Unger, Draftfcb

Session Type: Presentation

We all know how difficult–and common–it is to create UX deliverables when there are no business requirements.

This session will provide you with approaches and tactics for to helping you generate requirements from team members and/or clients while still keeping a focus on the user needs. There will be an exploration of…

* How to use SMART Goals to help kill the bad ideas that can bring the project down
* How to break through the BS and define exactly what’s the difference between requests and requirements
* How to prioritize user needs against business objectives
* Channeling personas to help flush out the requirements
* Utilizing aspects of the Design Studio and “Living in Beta” concepts to move through the process

At the end of the session, I’ll share a 1 page BRD (Business Requirements Document) that can be used to facilitate the collection of requirements from team members and/or clients on a feature-by-feature basis.


Russ Unger is the Director of Experience Planning for Draftfcb, an advertising/marketing agency in the Midwest. He has been involved in the user experience design for large-scale public facing sites for such companies as Sharpie, Metromix,, United Airlines and Hewlett-Packard. He has also taught courses in Web and Interactive/Flash design and is an author and editor for Boxes and Arrows ( In addition, he serves on the board of directors for the Information Architecture Institute (

Russ is co-author of the book “A Project Guide to User Experience Design” with Carolyn Chandler for Peachpit Press (Voices That Matter).


  1. Posted September 28, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Excellent topic!

    I’m especially interested in how you suggest going about the political stickiness that usually accompanies this sort of confusion in a project. Often the mushy direction is due to people avoiding confrontation and such.

    Small point: Leading with the bullet about SMART feels weaker than leading with the couple ofter it (especially the ‘break through the BS’ one), so maybe reshuffle those? (Also, not everyone may get the SMART acronym)

  2. Shelly Bowman
    Posted September 28, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Russ – this would be very useful for me. We do this far too often and see too much scope creep because of hidden or missed requirements.

  3. Jeff Kraemer
    Posted September 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    This sounds really valuable, Russ, especially its emphasis on stacking personas and user needs against business reqs.

    In my organization, it’s the Business Analyst who flushes out these requirements and generates a BRD; would your presentation discuss how to collaborate with a BA, or is this really for people in BA-less situations?

  4. Posted September 28, 2009 at 12:37 pm


    Good point re: SMART; kind of thought blowing it out might blow make some of the slides irrelevant, but it’s a good point, for certain!

    @Shelly – I’m hopeful we’ll be able to discuss! :-)


    I’ve been in organizations like that, and there’s a bit of discussion around whether or not UXers are becoming “the next BAs”–in recent years, I’ve seen fewer and fewer BAs in the organizations I’ve worked with (both from a consultant perspective and an innie). I think that this presentation is for those in BA-less organizations, however, you’re making me think that maybe it’s for BAs, too (and UXers), for figuring out the grey spaces a bit better.

    Really, really appreciate the feedback!

  5. Amy
    Posted September 29, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    This would be extremely valuable for me, too. Pulling requirements out of thin air is something I have to do all the time, and I’d welcome ideas on how to make it less painful and more successful.