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Requirements Gathering

Capturing requirements can be the most challenging part of a software development project. If you don’t get the requirements right, or miss key requirements, your project is in vain. Even if you do meet budget and schedule objectives, your project will fail to deliver the benefits your sponsors envisioned for it.

Here are some simple tips to follow in order to avoid a disaster. Be forewarned: these tips sound simple and straightforward but can be very tricky to implement. This is not meant to be a complete set of instructions for managing requirements on any project, it is meant to help you avoid some common pitfalls.

  1. Identify the right stakeholders to contribute requirements. The key stakeholders are the ones that will be using the software to conduct their business, the ones who will be maintaining it after deployment, and the business sponsor. Exclude those who wish to influence the outcome of the project but who don’t have a stake in the success of the project. If you’re given a list of stakeholders who should be included, verify that the list includes all the stakeholders. Click here for some handy tips on how to identify the right stakeholders
  2. Identify the right requirements capture tools and techniques. You should choose techniques that are a fit for the stakeholders who will be defining their requirements and are suitable for the organization’s makeup. For example, if your stakeholders are a geographically diverse group, techniques such as storyboarding or brainstorming will not work. Click here for more information on requirements gathering techniques.
  3. Work with your stakeholders to capture requirements in plain English. Requirements should speak to some aspect of the business benefit to be derived from the project. The requirement should be feasible (that is they should be possible to code by the development team). They should also be verifiable. To ensure a requirement is verifiable, ask the question: How are you going to test the requirement? If you don’t get an answer to that question, you need to work on the requirement to convert it into something that is verifiable. Click here for more information on capturing clear requirements.
  4. Define a schedule for the requirements gathering exercise that will allow building to start on time, and then stick to the schedule. Hold the stakeholders responsible for meeting their scheduled deadlines. Make sure the team understands that delivering requirements late will delay the project end date. Click here for more information on scheduling requirements gathering activities.
  5. Identify the approver, or approvers, for the requirements; this is the person, or people, who your business sponsor empowers to speak on their behalf, if the sponsor is not to be responsible for sign off. You will have to hold these people accountable for meeting the schedule deadlines. Don’t proceed to the build phase without the requirements having been approved. Click here for more information on identifying approvers.
  6. Identify each requirement with a unique id. This is the key to traceability. The id should be tracked in the functional specs, design specs, and tests. Click here for more information on tracing requirements.
  7. Prioritize each requirement. Prioritization should be an integral part of your collection process and each priority should have a priority associated with it. Click here for more information on how to prioritize your project's requirements and how to use prioritization to manage "scope creep".