How to Overcome 12 Common Requirements Mistakes

    2=Planning, 4=Control

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How often have you found new requirements towards the end of your projects? Or perhaps your team said they had gathered the requirements, but in reality, the team had hastily rushed through the requirement process resulting in rework, missed deadlines, and another blown budget. Let's look at 12 common requirements mistakes.

requirements meeting

If you want to improve your project success, improve your requirements processes. You can't overcome all the issues overnight, but here are a few things to consider.

12 Requirements Mistakes

1. No requirements management plan. The project manager should define the approach to requirements development and management. How will you elicit, analyze, document, and validate requirements? What project lifecycle—predictive/plan-driven, adaptive/agile, iterative, incremental or hybrid—will you use?

2. Poor requirements change process. How will you manage requirement changes? Consider using version control for your requirements. There are numerous requirements management tools on the market that can help you manage the history and versions of your requirements. If you are using Word or Excel (not a best practice), consider adding a date in the footer and in the filename of your requirement document.

3. Failure to assign a business analyst (BA) to the team. One of the best things that you can do is to add a skilled business analyst to your team. Read my article: Why Project Managers Need Business Analysts.

Requirement. A condition or capability that is required to be present in a product, service, or result to satisfy a contract or other formally imposed specification. –PMBOK® Guide, 6th Edition

4. Failure to identify stakeholders for the requirements process. If you suspect there are unspoken requirements, be proactive to engage the individuals, groups, and organizations who have yet to speak up. If you are implementing third-party commercial solutions, be sure to include the vendor(s).

5. Ambiguous requirements. Clarify the requirements. Vague requirements lead to misinterpretations. People view the requirements in different ways. When possible, the business analyst should have face-to-face conversations (even if its virtual) with the stakeholders.

6. Out of scope requirements (i.e., scope creep). Keep things in check. Establish the boundaries of the project through the project charter and project scope statement.

7. Requirements that will never be used. One of the greatest sins of software development is allowing users to specify things that will never be used (or rarely be used). One way to mitigate this risk in agile projects is to use a requirements backlog. The product owner continually prioritizes the backlog. The lower value requirements fall towards the bottom of the backlog and will not be developed in most cases.

8. Failure to analyze assumptions. Imagine your project team assumes the software being developed will run on another operating system with no changes. It is best to test these assumptions during the requirements process.

9. Not prioritizing requirements. If you had to cut some of the requirements to implement your project quicker, which ones would go first?

10. Failure to model and analyze requirements. When a business analyst elicits requirements, the users respond. Through analysis, the BA discovers what the user actually needs. Prototypes and models (yes, even white-board drawings) can help you get to the real needs quicker.

11. No requirements validation. Review the requirements with your team in an effort to find defects or errors and correct them early. These defects are much more costly to correct later in the project.

12. Failure to baseline the requirements. At some point, you and the team must sign off on the requirements and agree that the requirements are good enough. Take a snapshot of the requirements at a given point and time.

How About You?

In one of your current  (or upcoming) projects, use this requirements checklist to improve your requirements processes. Identify a couple of strategies that can help you and your team deliver the real needs of your users. 

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"Intelligent leadership, creative communication and depth of technical skill all describe Harry Hall." –John Bartuska, Director of HR–ONUG Communications

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