IT projects serve many different purposes, encompassing multiple technical, business and financial variables. Considering all the driving factors, project requirements can and do exist at many levels, and it's no easy task to make sense of all the potential, and possibly conflicting, needs. That's why the structured requirements analysis is a particularly important part of the management process for IT projects. Read on for more.
It stands to reason that on time, on budget project success depends on a solid definition of each and every realistic requirement. This is the “factual” backbone of any IT project, paving a path for efficient project planning and execution. Requirements serve three (3) primary functions:
- Requirements form the basis for project deliverables, specifying operational needs and functionality.
- Requirements establish a consensus and common ground amongst project stakeholders and participants.
- Requirements quantify expectations into specific results, that can be given form and substance.
The requirements analysis is performed as part of the project definition process.
Getting Organized: Requirements Categories
Requirements identification and analysis occurs at all stages of the project management lifecycle, starting with the project proposal, and continuing as the project unfolds and change requests are presented. To make things easier, it helps to view requirements in terms of the "bigger picture", considering the complex dynamics of the IT project. Within the IT project environment, requirements may vary by project type and circumstances, but can be quantified according to four (4) primary categories:
- Functional Requirements: To determine the appearance, features and operational functionality of the project deliverables.
- Technical Requirements: To determine the technical elements of the project deliverables, including design specifications, operational requirements, platform compatibility, capacity and performance requirements.
- Business Requirements: To determine overall project goals and vision, including business goals, objectives, productivity expectations, return on investment and payback requirements.
- Process Requirements: To determine the project process requirements, governing the way that the project is to be managed, including project management policies, procedures and best practices.
Working Through the Requirements Process
As you go through the process of requirements identification and analysis, you need to consider the types of requirements that must be defined, as well as the various individuals involved in the requirements process. Since requirements define deliverables and build consensus, it essential that all key stakeholders are involved in the requirements process as needed, whether that involvement includes identification, review or approval.
Step One: Seek Requirements
Obtain a "Requirements Statement" from the appropriate project stakeholders, in order to get a "first-hand" perspective of project requirements from a stakeholder point of view:
- Functional Requirements: Provided by end-users/customers.
- Technical Requirements: Provided by technical staff.
- Business Requirements: Provided by end-users & management.
- Process Requirements: Provided by IT and project staff.
Step Two: Validate Requirements
- Evaluate and validate requirements against business needs, technical possibilities, internal capabilities, alternatives, and budget realities.
- Are the requirements realistic?
- Are the requirements attainable?
- Are the requirements consistent with technology best practices, business goals, budgets and objectives?
- Are the requirements sufficient to act?
- If fulfilled, will these requirements meet a viable need, or will they create new needs and problems?
Step Three: Restate Requirements
Restate the requirements in specific terms upon which further action can be taken. This restatement should phrase requirements in terms of the project deliverable, demonstrating to the project customer that their requirements have been understood and that results can be produced.
Step Four: Analyze Risks
Identify the risks and assumptions upon which these requirements are based.
Step Five: Seek Acceptance and Approval
Seek acceptance and approval of your restatement of requirements. This acceptance and approval should be obtained from all relevant project stakeholders and participants.
Step Six: Manage Change
Adopt and enforce standardized change request procedures that will allow requirements to change as the project develops, and as needs and circumstances dictate. Requirements changes should be kept to a minimum, and only as needed. In order to ensure that requirements changes are evaluated appropriately, change requests should account for the following:
- The individual requesting the change.
- The specifics of the change.
- The reason for the change.
- The likely impact on the project.
- Task changes required (by task, date and activities involved).
- The costs involved.
- Steps for review and approval.
- Criteria for change request acceptance or rejection.
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