One of the main reasons for project failure is poor requirements management. In this article, we will give insights on what are project requirements, types of requirements and how to gather requirements to ensure project success. We will also give you the answer to what business analysts do to effectively handle project requirements. Let’s start with the basics.
What are the project requirements?
In simpler terms, a requirement is something that is needed or must be done. In project management, a requirement is defined as a capability or condition that must exist in a product or service to satisfy a contract or any other formally imposed specification.
In a project, there are three critical factors - cost, schedule and scope. You will have to carefully plan and optimize your budget and schedule to meet the constraints. Defining the scope of the project is as critical as planning for time and money to invest in a project. The scope is nothing other than well-defined requirements.
Poor requirements management leads to scope creeps which eventually negatively impacts the cost and schedule of a project.
There are many challenges in defining the scope of the project. Firstly, at times the customers are not sure what they want. Then there are communication gaps or language barriers between the customer and the project teams. There are many factors that could lead to requirements gathering nightmare for the project teams.
The most common situation in which you can witness the challenge of project requirements is the construction of a house. Imagine that you want to get a new house built for you and your family from scratch. You will have to communicate what your dream house will look like to the architect and project engineer.
You may want your kitchen looking a certain way or your staircase located at a certain place but you may be speaking a different language to your construction team. They may understand something else and in the end, you may feel disappointed that even after investing so much time and money why your kitchen doesn’t look like the one you imagined.
Related read: How to Leverage the Project Management Triangle
Types of project requirements
To clearly define the requirements, it is necessary to know the types of requirements. Here is how project requirements are classified:
- Business requirements – These requirements describe why the project is needed.
- Stakeholder requirements – These requirements outline the needs of a stakeholder or stakeholder group.
- Solution requirements – These requirements incorporate the characteristics, functions, and features of the product, service, or result that will meet the business and stakeholder requirements.
- Functional requirements – These requirements describe the behaviors of the product.
- Non-functional requirements – The non-functional requirements define the environmental conditions or qualities required for the product to be effective.
- Transition requirements – The temporary capabilities needed to transition from the current as-is state to the desired future state are referred to as transition requirements.
- Project requirements – These requirements describe the actions, processes, or other conditions the project needs to meet.
- Quality requirements – These requirements describe the criteria to validate the successful completion of a project deliverable or fulfillment of other project requirements.
How to gather project requirements?
To effectively gather project requirements, you need to follow these four steps:
1. Requirements elicitation
A skilled business analyst knows that the project requirements will not be handed to them so easily. They will have to elicit the requirements from the customers. Most of the time, the customers don’t exactly know what they want, they need help.
The requirements may change in the middle of the project. A business analyst has to plan for change management as well. Business analysts play a critical role in the success of the project.
Here are some elicitation techniques:
- Document analysis
- Job shadowing
- Nominal group technique
- Requirements workshops
- Context diagrams
2. Analyzing the requirements
In a software project, we break the requirements to a great level of detail as we transition from business requirements to the user requirements and further into the detailed system requirements.
The higher level needs are met by synthesizing these components together after determining the details. The requirements analysis helps to examine the structure of the software being built.
Prototypes are one of the powerful ways to analyze requirements. This helps the customers to know what they like and what they don’t like about the prototype.
Context diagrams also help to visually depict a software application and how actors (individuals, groups, or other systems) interact with it. We can also visualize the things that flow in and out of the process and determine who receives the output.
At times requirements are prioritized during the analysis process. The requirements may be prioritized on the basis of the feature that will give the greatest benefit or the feature that may cause the greatest risk.
Especially in agile projects, we can rank and order the user stories in the product backlog.
Related read: Analyzing Customer’s Requirements
3. Requirements documentation
Over the years, the agile documentation has emphasized on lighter requirements documentation and more collaboration. This implicates that now the documentation should be more effective rather than being detailed. The lighter documentation also helps anyone involved in the project to easily understand the features and functions of the software.
The project charter defines business requirements as goals. The user requirements are documented in a user story format. A requirements management tool captures detailed software requirements.
4. Requirements validation
Finally, we talk about requirements validation. How to ensure that the project requirements are correct, free of defects/bugs, and meets the needs of the users?
Validation meetings to review the requirements with a cross-functional team such as the BAs, developers, and testers are necessary to validate the requirements. As the team reaches agreement on the requirements, the appropriate sign-off process kicks off.
How to avoid issues with project requirements?
Now we come to the most important question: what professionals do differently to ensure there are no issues with project requirements. Business analysts solve problems related to project requirements as follows:
It’s important that all the project stakeholders are on the same page with respect to project requirements for which communication is the key. Transparent communication leaves no room for any conflicts in the interest of the stakeholders. When all the stakeholders have a single view of all the project requirements, the business analysts can elicit requirements effectively.
Related read: Transparency as a Key to Successful Partnership
Business analysts should use a collaboration platform throughout the planning & execution of the project. A collaboration platform allows BA, development, testing team and stakeholders to establish two-way communication with each other. This brings the stakeholders closer to the development and testing to get greater insights on exactly what is being built. This helps business analysts to focus on requirements management rather than acting as a bridge between the development team and stakeholders.
Track project progress in real-time
Business analysts need to stay updated on the status of completed and pending tasks to forecast timelines accurately. Business analysts with correct status of the requirements whether they are done, in progress or under review can better plan the project deliverables.
The professional business analysts for effective collaboration and tracking project progress depend on requirements management tool.
Using a requirements management tool
As a professional instrument of business analysts, a requirements management tool provides the following features to aid in handling project requirements:
- Requirements capture and documentation
- Collaboration platform
- Review history and version control
- Distribution, approval and sign-off features
- Ability to elaborate down to multiple levels (epic, story, sub-story, acceptance criteria, test scenario, test case, test script)
- Establish links to other sources
- Highlight dependencies
- ocument upload
- Traceability – link requirements with dashboards, test cases, defects
- Visually express the status of each requirement – requirements, design, development, testing, implementation
- Allow collaboration with other tools or plug-ins
Project requirements can make or break your software. Poorly handled project requirements could lead to scope creeps and lead to loss of time and money. BAs rely on their expertise and technological solutions, such as a requirements management tool, to ensure project requirements are handled in the right way for project success.
This is a guest post by Nick Karlsson. Nick Karlsson has 10 years of experience in the IT industry as a BA. He is established as blogger writing on topics such as agile, DevOPs, software test management, project management, requirements management, etc.