Identifying project requirements is a vital step in being able to accurately define the scope of a project. Here are four steps to effective project requirements gathering.
The success of a project can only be determined by comparing what a project actually produces as its deliverables against any approved requirements. Once the project’s purpose, potential goals, and general expectations are communicated, this should trigger the requirements gathering process, which involves identifying all the resources, tools, and techniques you will need to ensure you and your team can achieve the project deliverables. Here are four steps to conduct effective requirements gathering and increase the chances of meeting your project goals.
Step 1: Identify all of the project stakeholders
Stakeholders can either make an impact on the outcome of a project or be impacted by the project. The first step in requirements gathering is to determine all of the potential stakeholders through a stakeholder analysis. Once they are all identified, you should meet with them to discuss the project, their potential contributions or the impact. These stakeholders can be internal or external to the organization.
Step 2: Identify and utilize the necessary tools needed to conduct requirements gathering
Identify the tools that are needed to capture, analyze, prioritize requirements, stakeholders, and the link back to project goals and deliverables. These can be simple tools such as a requirements traceability matrix or more complex ones including business intelligence tools, business analysis tools, project management software and other documents, storage, and collaboration tools. Ensure these tools are in place to communicate, as well as capture, store, and analyze the data you need to make decisions.
Step 3: Identify and use the most relevant techniques for conducting requirements gathering
Once you know which stakeholders are essential to requirements gathering, identify how you are going to accurately gather the essential business information needed to meet project goals. Here are just some of the more common techniques used.
- Brainstorming involves meeting with various stakeholders in one place to discuss and catalog potential ideas, challenges, and solutions.
- Stakeholder interviews are typically one-on-one meetings with stakeholders to gather key information about their roles, knowledge, and experience in relation to the impact on the project.
- Questionnaires can be sent out anonymously to a group or in a targeted manner to particular individuals (or types of individuals) regarding factors that can either impact a project or be impacted by a project. It can involve different aspects including their roles, views, experiences, opinions, and more.
- Expert panels can be internal or external to an organization and focus on the input from subject matter experts who are able to share valuable insights necessary for the project to be successful.
- Prototypes are for product development, making use of mock-ups or models to determine what the end product might look like.
Step 4: Conduct requirements gathering
Now that you have identified the right people and the best tools and techniques, it is time to conduct requirements gathering and analysis. It is not enough to just gather data: you need to be able to decipher and analyze the data. Without tracing the meaning of the data back to meeting the client’s needs, the information serves no purpose. Once you have identified and analyzed all of the requirements, make sure to confirm your findings with subject matter experts and the client to ensure everything is accurate and that nothing has fallen through the cracks. This is essential, as the success of the tasks, milestones, and the deliverables will depend on the accuracy of this information.
Moira Alexander, PMP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, is a recognized project management influencer, thought leader, a regular correspondent for PMI’s Projectified podcast, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PMWorld 360 Magazine, Founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, and author of “LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership”. Moira has over 25 years of experience in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada and has been quoted in various publications including Forbes. She writes thought leadership content for top-tier publications and business blogs and oversees or writes sponsored content and software reviews on PMWorld 360 Magazine.