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Design research vs. business requirements gathering

Design research is different than traditional business requirements gathering.

Business requirements gathering (BRG) often:

  • Focuses on how a system can fit existing regulations existing processes, or systems.
  • Involves the public servants who will use and maintain system.
  • Asks public servants what they want the system to do.
  • Usually happens at the beginning of a project.

Design research has a:

  • Different purpose: Design research focuses on understanding people’s goals, behaviors and blockers. It helps us focus on what people need, before we get into the constraints of delivering to them.
  • Different audience: Design research studies people who use a service. It can also study what public servants need, but always includes members of the public.
  • Different questions: Design research doesn’t ask people what they want from a service. It focuses on identifying what they need from a service based on their goals and blockers.
  • Different frequency: Design research happens throughout the design of a service. Conduct little research, often.

Design research can complement traditional business requirements gathering.

  • Design research identifies existing constraints we most need to overcome. It builds evidence for what systems or regulations * need to change. BRG identifies those constraints, but often treats those constraints as a given.
  • Design research makes sure we’re serving the public, and not just public servants. BRG surfaces what matters to government departments. But without design research, BRG risks missing what matters to the public.
  • Design research helps us move from wants to needs. Design research focuses on what people need based on their behaviors, not wishes. BRG identifies wants, but design research helps figure out which wants are needs.
  • Design research minimizes risk throughout project development. With only up front BRG, we don’t test our assumptions about what’s helpful before a product goes live.

- Last updated by Colin on June 5, 2019