Easy Ways to Collect Accurate and Actionable Project Requirements

Projects must be planned and executed to deliver timely, viable solutions that are both relevant and realistic. To meet these goals, every project must begin with an fully vetted and approved requirements specification. But, before project requirements can be vetted and approved, they must be collected, organized and transformed into an actionable project scope, vision and work effort.  Read on for more.

IT projects are complex projects.  Requirements are typically multi-faceted, covering technical, financial, and operational elements, and are also subject to perception, bias and stakeholder interests. As such, the requirements collection process must incorporate and address all these realities - to identify requirements at all levels and perceptions.   This is best achieved through standardized steps, designed for consistency, but equipped with built-in flexibility.

Requirements collection is performed as part of the project definition process.  For an illustrated view of project definition, see our informative infographic Defining Projects for Action and Approval.

Start with Basic Data Collection Strategies

The following techniques and strategies are used to "fast track" the requirements collection process so that project needs can be quickly identified and organized for analysis:

In Person Requirements Collection

"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.

Requirements Collection Via 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.

Requirements Collection Via Observation Techniques

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.

Key Components for Requirements Collection

In practical application, most projects will involve some combination of these various methods in order to collect a full set of useful requirements. Requirements collection is initiated when the project need is first identified and the project “solution” is to be proposed. Requirements refinement continues after the project is “selected” and as the scope is defined, aligned and approved. The requirements collection process must be designed to address the following primary issues:

  • 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, validating deliverables must be produced, in order to document requirements for review and acceptance. This deliverable, formally known as a "Requirements Statement/Specification" must be prepared and approved before project work begins. It's very risky to initiate costly project work without a full understanding and an acceptance of properly stated requirements. The requirements deliverable also provides a baseline for managing inevitable project change

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