“Need” is a pretty powerful term in business culture, when you think about it. Business needs dictate processes, products, activities, initiatives, investments, projects, tasks, and so much more. These in turn, create even more needs that have to be fulfilled in order to get things going. It’s almost like Newton’s Third Law that states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” but in the context of doing business.
Unfortunately, more often than we like, there’s a disconnect between meeting goals and missions and the actual need. Sometimes stakeholders are entirely displeased with a particular output. Sometimes, they change their minds in the middle of a project. Sometimes multiple related stakeholders cause confusion because they don’t agree with what they need and want. Sometimes they keep on adding more requirements to tasks you already assume are completed.
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But first, what is requirement analysis?
First thing’s first, what is requirement analysis to begin with? Basically, requirements analysis covers all the tasks needed to determine the necessities, obligations, needs and the like, for a new or revised project, plan or product. The whole principle encompasses all industries, but obviously, the applications and the details will differ based not only on the industry, but on the kind of company and the kind of culture it has.
According this article from Bright Hub PM, business requirement analysis involves the analysis of the organic business, the analysis of markets and trends, the analysis of competitors, and the analysis of the business environment — where you look at the existing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in each aspect of the process.
In any sort of project, requirements analysis plays a major role in when and how that project is completed. As we mentioned earlier, during the course of completing a particular project or task, there is no shortage of possible complications, conflicts, issues, and problems that can arise. Requirement analysis prevents a lot of those things from happening.
The nature and importance of requirement analysis is why the whole process is very structured — which is especially applicable to fields where a high level of detail and specificity is required, such as software development. But even at its most basic level, requirement analysis needs to be documented and defined. And besides always being justified and connected to business need at all times, requirement analysis should yield results that are both measurable and actionable, and can be traced and tested. A good requirement analysis also helps all involved understand the business need better, and fosters better communication and collaboration between all stakeholders. Requirement analysis is a preventive measure against problems that might occur in the middle of a project, which could delay or even prevent the project’s completion altogether.
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Developing and executing an effective requirement analysis
Essentially, a plethora of factors go into requirement analysis, and there really is no set formula that can be called a one-size-fits-all approach. That being said, there are a number of important principles and concepts that one must remember when dealing with requirement analysis.
Many organizations already do requirements analysis, but more often than not, it is done largely unconsciously, as an article from Techwell illustrates. There is little process or system to how things are done, which inevitably do lead to problems sooner or later down the road. This is why it is important to understand the essential factors that every requirement analysis process has to have.
1. Identifying and getting to know the stakeholders involved
This is a crucial first step in developing and executing an effective requirement analysis. By stakeholders, it means everyone from the sponsors to the clients/ to the end users of the project’s final product. It would be ideal to have a designated point person who would represent the interests of the stakeholders as a group, but at the very least, one needs to identify who can make decisions and who has the final say. It’s important to come up with a comprehensive list of stakeholders — especially of the decision-makers — so there’s less confusion and possibly conflicting orders and / or requirements down the road.
2. Identifying stakeholders’ requirements
The next step involves consolidating another comprehensive list — this time the needs, wants and requirements of the stakeholders. This is important since everyone will have different needs and requirements, since they’re affected by — and thus look at — the project in different ways. In the development of a software application, for example, the view of the client can primarily be profit and efficiency, while for the end-user of the same application, what’s more important for them would be ease of use and accessibility.
It is important to keep in mind though, that you should keep to the parameters and scope of the project when talking to stakeholders. Or else you risk revision or even a complete revamp of the project; if there aren’t any lines that cannot be crossed, nothing will be accomplished in the end.
Discussions with stakeholders can be done individually, or as a group (such as focus groups or joint interviews), or even a combination of both if the time constraints allow for it. There’s also the option to go with presenting a possible scenario that based on how the final product will be used. Due to the nature of this part of the process, you’ll also be able to develop at the very least a general idea of the final outcome / output of the project, which can be used to determine other possible stakeholder requirements.
3. Categorizing the requirements
To better make sense of the likely immense amount of requirements you’ve collected, it’s time to categorize them. An efficient and common way to this would be to classify requirements as functional, technical, operational, and transitional.
Functional requirements include what’s needed for an end product to function well — based on the end-user’s point of view. This would involve things like actual utilities and features that will be utilized by users. As the name implies, technical requirements encompass the technical matters and factors that should be taken into account during the implementation and continued operation of the product or service. Operation requirements, on the other hand, is related to the maintenance and upkeep of the service or product, many of which happen behind the curtain. Finally, transitional requirements involve the needs for the implementation process so that it happens seamlessly, smoothly, and effectively.
4. Analyzing the requirements
The gist of this part of the process is determining which of the requirements are realistic and doable, based on the project’s parameters and limitations. These parameters and limitations include things like budget, time constraints, manpower and other resources, as well as business need. This is where attention to detail comes in, since the requirements should be as detailed as possible — it’s hard to execute and deliver requirements if it’s vague or ambiguous.
This is also the part of the process where you start prioritizing which of these requirements should be met first. It’s also important to assess the impact of the project on the status quo which include things like staffing, resource allocation, current products / services, and systems and processes.
Based on the analysis, you can sit down with the stakeholders concerned and iron out any conflicts or issues.
5. Developing a draft and finalizing everything.
The initial draft of the project, resulting from all the previous parts of the process, should then be distributed to all the stakeholders, who should be given a deadline for feedback. This ensures that the parameters the project has will be kept, and make certain that all stakeholders can check if their requirements are reflected well enough.
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Remembering what’s important
A good business requirements analysis identifies the impact a new system, service, or product will have on all the concerned stakeholders. It is also an aid in understanding what their expectations are for the end product. Like we mentioned before, there is really no set way to go about doing requirement analysis — but one of the universal things about it is that it should always be as clear, detailed, and concise as possible. And these requirements should always, always trace back to business need.
It’s also important that you have the right tools at your disposal to go about executing a requirements analysis properly. For example, a popular and effective tool among developers is Runrun.it’s Smart Time Tracking, which (aside from traditional time tracking functions) allows you to track the time being used in certain projects or processes. Another tool, the Dashboard, allows for access to even more data — real time data that can be pulled up quickly. Runrun.it’s Dashboard allows for the generation of accurate reports and statistics needed to help give a better overview of what’s happening in the organization.