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March 2014 - 2 [Cradle-6.8.3]

Finding the Right Path through the Requirements labyrinth

PA Consulting
By Simon Duke and Peter Durant, PA business analysts and technologists

Simon Duke and Peter Durant from PA Consulting Group, are experienced business analysts and technologists. From their collective experience developing products, defining business strategies and supporting complex procurement activities they have developed a set of best practice guidelines which should be considered throughout the lifecycle of a project’s requirements.
Republished with permission - see original article here.

Without clearly defined requirements, it’s difficult to know whether a process, service or product - whether it’s being developed or procured - will meet your customer’s needs. Developing requirements is a complex process because it involves managing the demands of multiple stakeholders and aligning objectives that may conflict. In the attempt to achieve these goals it can be all too easy to create complexity and to set expectations that cannot be met - which may make it impossible to fulfill your customers’ requirements without spending too much on development or procurement.

To avoid creating complexity and inflating expectations, you need to generate effective requirements that are trusted by all interested parties, and then encourage all parties to live by the requirements through to the end of delivery.

The following practices have been learned through years of experience in developing tens of thousands of requirements on difficult and challenging assignments, and we recommend that you consider them as you embark on your requirements definition.

Continuously Engage with all of your Stakeholders

From ‘why are we doing this?’ to ‘why didn’t you ask me earlier?’ you can expect to face questions as you work to define the requirements for your project. However, by ensuring all parties are engaged and on-side from the outset, you will pave the way for a much smoother journey.  Start with the following preparations:

Taking these steps will help you to improve stakeholder buy-in, which in turn will help to ensure that your requirements are signed off quickly and not delayed by conflicting expectations.

Get the Source Information Right

When you’re seeking requirements sign-off, the sources of information for each requirement are likely to come under close scrutiny. You need to know how to show that you have obtained the right information and present the trail in the best format for your audience. Here are a few guidelines:

Getting the source information right benefits your programme by creating proper and thorough traceability - you can then spend your time increasing the quality of your requirements, not debating whether they came from appropriate sources.

Use the Right Tools and Formats for the Job

To save time and increase agreement, it is crucial to find a presentation format that your early reviewers like working with. Formats do matter: technical and business reviewers may prefer different presentation formats, and this can cause problems if not resolved early. Re-work to change from one format to another is frustrating and time consuming, and manually maintaining up-to-date requirements in multiple formats is not practical. We recommend:

Using the right tools and formats will make requirements analysis easier, support your work with reviewers, and save you time and effort down the line. It’s not an exciting aspect, but one that you should seek to get right from the outset.

Bring Requirements to Life throughout the Project

With supportive stakeholders and approved requirements, success will be within your grasp. At the analysis stage of your project, however, requirements risk becoming ‘that thing you did at the start of the project because you had to’ and your stakeholders can easily forget the broader aim that requirements support.

To avoid losing the value created so far, requirements should come to life as the project continues. Taking some simple steps can help you to achieve this:

The benefits of ‘living requirements’ are often felt well into the lifetime of a project: less rework, faster delivery and easier change control. You will benefit considerably from the effort you put into bringing requirements to life.

In summary, requirements development demands outstanding stakeholder management and networking skills, combined with an ability to manage and track a myriad of details; but at the same time you cannot afford to lose sight of overall goals and strategic needs. We hope that the lessons we have learned over the years, and set out in this short paper, will give those of you relatively new to this type of work some useful tips, and will be a helpful reminder to readers who are more experienced.

If you would like further information or would like to discuss any of the points raised, please contact us now.

PA Consulting Group
Cambridge Technology Centre
Tel: 01763 261222

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