Project Management Essentials – Gathering Requirements for a Project

As a project progresses through the planning phase and once the scope has been defined and documented the requirement gathering phase takes over.  It is a process of defining and documenting stakeholders need for meeting the project goals and final outcome. Requirements gathering not only consist of collecting the specifics of what an end product should look like but also pertain to gathering other vital supplemental information surrounding the end product. This supplemental information guides us and gives a deeper view of any particular requirements. The requirements documentation will contain goals and objectives that go in the requirements traceability matrix, level of service, performance requirements, security, quality requirements and acceptance criteria as well as support and training requirements.

A charter is a good place to start along with the list of stakeholders as it helps figure out and formalize a plan for proper involvement and coordination of requirements gathering activities. There are different ways of extracting the needs, some of which are discussed below.

Interview & Discussion- In interview session can be scheduled with the subject matter experts of stakeholder to ask questions surrounding the project objectives outlined in the charter. The responses would be documented and further follow up sessions would be scheduled on iterative basis until all the requirements are fully collected.

Focus groups and workshops – Sessions can be held with the SMEs or conduct cross functional meetings wherein members of different groups or departments would contribute on helping understand and shape the requirements.

Group decision making techniques include brain storming and voting as well as Delphi technique. Beyond these, questionnaire and surveys can be conducted and the majority of response or similar responses will be further discussed and become part of further conversations and clarifications.

Prototypes – One of the most common techniques I have encountered are creating mock ups or models. Mockups are a great way to convey what the stakeholder is looking for in a product and the final outcomes. Mockups can be a PowerPoint presentation detailing report design and displays the look and feel as well as elements needed in the report along with other business logic.

The requirements traceability matrix is a very important tool that would be used frequently by project managers to track, trace, document and maintain all the information about the requirement as well as information surrounding that requirement. Requirements traceability matrix document is basically an excel sheet with following columns.

Requirement id – Each requirement should have a unique id and this should not be mistaken with row numbers. The id can be numeric and in order but they will never change even if a new requirement is added or deleted from the middle of the list.

Requirement – This is the context containing description of the requirement.

Source – This field will state the person/group from whom the requirement originated.

Business Need – States the need for that particular requirement on why and how it will help build and shape the outcome.

Project Objectives – This describes how the requirement is aligned with the project objectives.

WBS deliverable – Each requirement is translated eventually into one or multiple Work Breakdown Structure entries. This field will state all the WBS and other work product dependencies.

Test Strategy – This field will state how the requirement will be tested for quality control and quality assurance and to ensure that acceptance criteria will be met through the strategy.

Organization – States the group or department who requested the requirement.

Status – Contains the current status of the requirement. This is frequently visited throughout the project and updated as and when a requirement undergoes status change.