How to Collect Project Requirements
Projects must be designed to deliver effective business and technical solutions. To meet that goal, every project must also begin with an approved requirements specification. But, before project requirements can be selected and approved, they must be collected, culled and defined. Considering the complex nature of technology projects, requirements are typically multi-faceted and often elusive, subject to opinion and bias. As such, the requirements collection process must reflect these realities to identify requirements at all levels and perceptions.
Requirements Collection Strategies:
The following techniques and strategies can be used to "fast track" the requirements collection process so that project needs are quickly identified and organized for analysis:
Interviews: "Face to face" interviews with one or more project stakeholders. These "requirements" interviews can occur as one-on-one meetings or group brainstorming sessions. Tip: Interviews are most appropriate for projects with a small number of "requirements contributors", where requirements must be gathered from a select, concentrated group.
Surveys: Documented questions (on paper or in electronic format) designed to collect "written" requirements feedback from one or more project stakeholders. Tip: Surveys are most appropriate for projects with a large number of "requirements contributors" where requirements must be gathered from a diverse group.
Observation: Direct "interaction" with project customers (i.e. end-users) to observe and identify requirements based on current workflows and practices. Tip: Observation is most appropriate for "performance or productivity improvement" projects where problems must be translated into actionable requirements.
In practical application, most projects will involve some combination of these various methods in order to collect a full set of useful requirements.
Before the requirements collection process begins, the following issues and questions must be addressed:
Participants: Who should participate in the requirements specification process? Requirements "contributors" should be selected according to project role, deliverables "stake", expertise, experience, and internal organizational issues.
Timing and Scope: How much time is available for the requirements collection process considering project scope and the number of participants? Requirements collection "timing and scope" will determine the data collection methods to be used.
Goals: What are your requirements collection goals? Do you need to validate and verify pre-defined requirements assumptions, or do you need to gather requirements feedback at the broadest levels possible? These goals and needs will help to determine your selected requirements techniques, including questions "content and format".
Once requirements data has been collected, analyzed and finalized, the resulting "requirements statement" should be verified and validated to ensure that the specified requirements match actual needs and intent. As such, the Requirements Statement should be formally approved before project work begins.