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"Building business requirements is a long arduous activity that involves many different resources, so it is not surprising that this category has many potential pitfalls. There is no question that strong business requirements are the essential statement of what a project is trying to achieve."

"There are many levels of business requirements, starting with what is essentially a statement of project objectives, and then progressing to more levels of details. These relationships are often unclear on projects as different members of the team have different interpretations of what is adequate. Business requirements usually begin with a statement of 'what' needs to be achieved. The 'why' is supplied by the business case. Details need to be provided to the 'what' so that the project team can explain the 'how'."

Common Problems

"A direct lack of user involvement almost guarantees that there will be problems with the business requirements. The table below identifies some of the common problems within the requirements category, key considerations, and some suggested questions that can be included in your assessment questionnaire."
Problem Description
Suggested Questions
Lack of clarity
A common trick that just about everyone in the information technology industry uses to mask a lack of understanding is to express themselves in vague terms. This is probably unconsciously done, but is highly wasteful. Business requirements that cannot be clearly explained cannot be satisfied.
What are the key objectives of the project? How will we know when we succeed? Who will tell us that we have succeeded?
Lack of agreement
Different stakeholders may have different requirements for the same function. The business sponsor or owner must make the final decisions to ensure that there is agreement on the business requirements.
Who are the major stakeholders that can provide business requirements? Have there been any arguments or disagreements among the major stakeholders or business owners?
Lack of prioritization
Projects get into trouble when too many requirements have to be met in the same timeframe. Deliver on the requirements that provide the best return. Deliver on the low hanging fruit first.
What is the single most important requirement for the project? Can we group the business requirements into critical, major, minor, and nice-to-have categories?
Maintaining a requirements document allows contradictory requests to be flagged. The executive sponsor must be prepared to resolve contradictory business requirements (for example, a report cannot be red and green at the same time).
Are there any requirements that appear contradictory?
Similar to lack of clarity, ambiguous business requirements can have several different interpretations. Use precise English to describe business requirements. Use words that have one meaning - for example, "18 buttons" instead of "15-18 buttons" or "lots of buttons".
Which requirements are ambiguous or unclear?
Too high level
A statement of business objectives is very often confused with detailed business requirements. Ensure that the business requirements are described in enough detail for the team members to perform their jobs.
Is there enough detail in the business requirements for an analyst to write a technical specification?
Examine the requirements to ensure that there are no missing items. The rescue manager or a designate must understand the details involving different permutations and combinations. For example, if a shipping method is described in detail, it would be useful to point out that a similar level of detail is required for the other shipping methods within the scope of the project.
What has been done to ensure that the requirements are complete?
Incorrect/InaccurateThe requirements are documented, but their implications have not been fully fleshed out and could be wrong.
What has been done to determine the accuracy of the requirements? What is the quality assurance process for the business requirements? How do we know that we are being given reasonable requests?

The above is an excerpt from a book written by Sanjiv Purba and Joseph Zucchero, published by McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2100 Powell Street, 10th Floor, Emeryville, California 94608 U.S.A. Sanjiv has over 20 years of experience managing large projects and many years engaged in rescuing ailing projects.