Getting project requirements management right
Project requirements form an integral part of every project, and yet a large number of project failures are attributed to poor requirement identification and management. As a project progresses, ‘scope creep’ occurs largely, because requirements and change are not being managed. Scope creep impacts the project budget and can ultimately result in failure.
Successful management of project requirements creates a strong project foundation for project rollout and ensures:
- No unforeseen requirements at the last minute
- Transparency and improved understanding of the project goals
- Less scope creep and better budget control
- Effective change control
- Improved support from stakeholders and users
Management of project requirements should begin during Initiation phase of a project and continue throughout the project. Getting stakeholders involved early and helping them to understand how you are going to manage requirements on your project will encourage buy-in and cooperation later in the project.
Project requirements gathering
Requirements gathering is the groundwork for successful project requirements management. The point at which you decide to do this depends on your project methodology: it could take place at the beginning of a project during the study phase or during the project within each project cycle from Initiation to Closeout stage.
The primary goal of requirements gathering is early identification of what is required and essential to deliver the scope of the project, not to add requirements that are simply good ideas.
Some general steps to take to keep your requirements gathering on track:
Establish your goals and objectives
When requirements gathering begins, you will need to have identified your goals and objectives, the scope of the project, and the deliverables and acceptance criteria. Without these, how will you know if a newly introduced requirement should be approved as a project?
Identify all stakeholders
This may seem obvious, but often times there are hidden stakeholders that need to be identified. All internal and external stakeholders need to be included in the stakeholder analysis, ensuring that all project requirements are included.
Conduct focused requirements interviews
Once you have identified your deliverables in a formal session with project stakeholders, you continue to conduct formal interviews with key stakeholders. Be prepared for these interviews and find out what is required to produce the identified deliverables. That way you won’t be burdened with requirements that aren’t actually necessary. Rather than looking at the proposed ‘value’ of a requirement, you can look at if the addition is necessary to deliver the scope.
Once your project is underway, requirements need to be continually managed. New requirements will be introduced and with the scope and deliverables in mind, you will have a reasonable basis for recommending why it should or should not be added. After every scope change, share the new requirements with the project team. This transparency not only ensures that everyone is on the same page, but it fosters a sense of unity and ‘buy-in’ from all stakeholders.
Manage Scope Creep
There is a lot to be said for enthusiasm, but over enthusiastic stakeholder requirements can cause a project to be bogged down in scope creep. Good requirement management is necessary to keep the project on time and within budget. Instead of spending every week arguing over new ideas that your stakeholders feel are required, try to establish all of the requirements early, baseline the project and manage stakeholder expectations.
- Project requirements management starts at the Idea phase of a project
- Try to identify all of the necessary project requirements early in the project lifecycle and obtain buy-in from key project stakeholders
- Manage new requirements and expectations with a deliverables-based approach, rather than looking at the ‘value’ it will add
- Be transparent with stakeholders during the all phases of a project