Studies say that between 40%-60% of all defects in software projects can be traced to errors made in gathering requirements. A lack of clarity in the scope of business functions and poorly defined business requirements are the top two challenges business analysts face.
Knowing these facts, the requirement gathering stage can be looked at as the most important part of software product development.
The Importance of Requirement Gathering
Creating a requirement document provides a blueprint to an intelligent, well-defined roadmap. It can increase the likelihood of a project’s success. Yet, even though requirement gathering is a logical first step, it often is given too little attention.
The goal of every project is to get the software development team and users on the same page as early as possible. Requirement gathering identifies issues in the beginning, helping narrow the gap between the product engineering team’s goals and user expectations.
How Requirement Gathering Works
Requirement gathering is either functional or non-functional. Functional requirements focus on the desired functionality of the product. They include:
- The processes, information and interactions a product must perform
- The scope of the software and product boundaries
- Business rules and data models
Non-functional requirements address:
- The visual properties of the system apart from the environment they’ll operate in
- Technical requirements
- Cultural, political, legal and security requirements
Both methods usually include three types of activities: eliciting, analyzing and recording requirements. The overall goal is to create a clear outline of what the project aims to achieve.
Once the requirements have been established, it’s time to implement MoSCoW – must have, should have, could have, won’t have – to establish priorities.
Follow the 7 Guidelines for Effective Requirement Gathering
While there is no perfect way of gathering, aggregating or extracting product requirements, these guidelines set you on the right path.
- Involve the end user from the start to help define the scope of the project
- Do not work on assumptions – always ask the user
- Clearly describe the criteria in easy-to-follow written documentation and share it with customers to confirm understanding
- Requirements must be feasible
- Develop SMART (smart, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) requirements focused on the what, not the how
- Understand the environment in which the software will run
- Create a prototype to confirm and refine customer requirements
A strong foundation for requirement gathering will pave the way for smooth software development.
Define Critical Objectives and Your Purpose
Having a clear project scope will help you define your critical objectives and purpose. This will, in turn, help you set the boundaries for requirement gathering.
By defining goals and setting milestones, you will increase your chance of success. You’ll also be better able to tackle any challenges or obstacles. Keep in mind:
- Requirement gathering is what you aim to achieve
- Objectives are what you actually deliver
- Purpose is what your business gains from the output
Talk to Stakeholders and Apply Good Interpersonal Skills
Consider a stakeholder to be anyone with an interest in the project. Gather accurate, complete requirements so that each stakeholder has realistic expectations of what is possible.
There must be constant participation and communication with stakeholders to address their expectations and concerns.
The quality and accuracy of requirements are crucial. It is advisable to select multiple tools to use when gathering requirements from stakeholders:
- Hold small group workshop sessions with an assigned facilitator to gather data
- Conference call interviews
- Hold one-on-one interviews in person
- Create questionnaires
- Conduct group interviews
- Use requirement gathering tools like JIRA, Trello and HP ALM
- Create online surveys
Once requirements are gathered, develop the prototype and review it with stakeholders. This is a great way to get everyone on the same page and to document the necessary information to ensure a successful project.
Apart from open-ended and close-ended questions, probing is a powerful tool in requirement gathering. Don’t ask questions from information that’s readably available. Ask questions that force the responder to think deeply about the project.
This will help clarify the user and stakeholder requirements. You’ll be able to obtain the information you need without the user or stakeholder feeling inhibited by what they need or expect from the project.
You must be able to think from multiple viewpoints. You’ll gain a range of perspectives that will allow your team to acquire a better understanding of actual market dynamics and what is needed to succeed.
Thinking broadly considers the long-term vision – what users will think about your product, what they will say, and how your competitors will react. It will help you keep an open mind to new technologies that allow you to create disruptions before others. It will help you view the big picture.
Choose the Best Methodology Based on Your Most-important Requirements
While cost and time are important factors for developing the best methodology, Agile, the iterative, team-based development, continues to be the undisputed approach. Agile’s time-boxed sprints and continuous feedback loops help deliver better results.
Chose the Agile Model when new changes are frequently needed, so you can do these at little cost. It only takes developers a few hours or days to implement new changes or features, depending on their size. The feedback loop of the Agile Model also helps justify new approaches.
If the requirements are clear, well-known and fixed, the Waterfall Model may be a better option. The technology is already understood and there won’t be any ambiguous requirements.
Define Your Project Scope Document
Consider this one of the most challenging tasks of project management. Your project scope document will include all goals and objectives, the product description, project requirements, constraints and assumptions, and the associated risks.
This document should also include the acceptance criteria for the end product.
The Value Proposition
This will most likely include reduced cost, faster time to market, increased operational efficiency and increase in market share. However, your value proposition must go beyond the basics and also address genuine user needs.
Make your value proposition as specific as possible. It should be a clear statement of the tangible benefits a user will experience.
It is equally important to ward off scope creep – that’s a slippery slope that’s difficult to recover from.
Manage scope creep by having well-defined customer requirements. This will discourage deviations from the value proposition.
Remove and Discard Anything That’s Unrealistic
The project scope and objectives are the foundation on which the success of your project is built. You must discard anything that’s unrealistic to the project scope. If you don’t, it may hamper development at later stages.
An effective way to remove and discard is to consult with each stakeholder and identify their needs and expectations. This will help you:
- Set realistic targets and deadlines
- Set realistic outcomes
- Provide a more realistic timeline
- Avoid scope creep
A lack of understanding of the limitations of the IT infrastructure can lead to a situation where what the client wants is something you can’t deliver.
Know your technology challenges and constraints. Explain these to all stakeholders so they will be open to alternative solutions. Identify the actual requirements and put a framework in place that enables stakeholders to know what technology options are on offers and what the development team can do.
Consider the Risks
Run risk management processes throughout the product lifecycle stage.
Be aware and inform stakeholders of the risks directly associated to specific project requirements, from regulatory non-compliance and legal issues to PR issues, unexpected costs and process bottlenecks.
Form Your Critical Assumptions Based on Analysis
Articulate any assumptions and constraints, as they play an important part on requirement gathering.
Assumptions are factors believed to be true but are not confirmed. Constraints include the project budget, the deadline and the limitations to possible solutions. Make intelligent and informed assumptions based on thorough analysis.
The Feasibility Study and the Prediction of Success Ratio
A feasibility study is critical to gaining the buy-in of senior management, as well as getting the necessary resources and project funding.
Apart from helping to predict the success ratio, the feasibility study will identify the risks associated with the project. This provides valuable input for the requirement gathering effort.
The feasibility study can also be used to evaluate if a possible solution is viable, practical, workable and economically justifiable.
The two key criteria to judge feasibility are the cost required and the value expected to be delivered.
Conduct studies to predict the success ratio for the following areas:
- Technical feasibility
- Economic feasibility
- Legal feasibility
- Operation feasibility
- Scheduling feasibility
Keep This in Mind
Piecing together a requirement gathering project doesn’t have to be a monumental task. All it requires is an organized plan. With that, you can steer your project to success.
If you have any questions or concerns, let our experts vet your project requirements to maximize its potential. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org