~ By John Reiling
Gathering and managing requirements are important challenges in project management. Projects succeed or fail due to poor requirements at any time throughout the project lifecycle. The continuously evolving baseline of requirements needs to be managed effectively. The project manager needs to assess and understand the uniqueness of the requirements gathering process for his/her individual project.
Preliminary scope statements are the beginning of the requirements gathering process. They are high level and are designed to initiate progressive elaboration, where that preliminary scope statement is expanded into the detail that makes up the complete requirements baseline. The project manager must get his/her hands around how that progressive elaboration process will take place as part of the project. Two points of focus can help:
This refers to the details that make up the actual requirements, or description of the product of the project. The key is to understand the reason for the project: the underlying problem to be solved or opportunity to be seized. It entails "discovering" the underlying problem or opportunity. This involves distinguishing what might be symptoms and possible solutions.
Often someone might state something like "What I need is a…" The individual is acutely aware of a problem and often focuses on a narrow set of possible solutions, mistakenly stating the problem as one of these solutions. The PM or Requirements Analyst needs to gain control of the conversation and by engaging stakeholders and to identify the root causes. Once the root cause is identified, many problems become very simple. Other situations may be more complex, may demand co-ordination among stakeholders, will require collaboration to discover and document the Requirements Definition.
This refers to the configuration management needed to manage an expanding and changing set of details that make up that Requirements Definition. Usually in the beginning of the project, there may be little apparent need for sophisticated Requirements Management. Often it can be assumed that there will be a need, or that need will become apparent as the project unfolds.
Here are four key inputs to the important challenge of Requirements Management:
The more the project requirements are elaborated, the greater need to organise Requirements Definitions for each part of the project. The more parts, and the more in depth the definitions, the greater is the need for a more sophisticated Requirements Management system.
Here is what can be done to effectively manage the requirements process on any project:
The Requirements Definition is the continuous process of fleshing out and refining the baseline description of the product of the project. Requirements Management is how the flow information in these steps is organised and configuration managed.
John Reiling, PMP/MBA, has managed projects in a variety of industries and understands the importance of clear requirements. Numerous courses on the topic of requirements are available for PDUs and PMP Prep on John's web site, Project Management Training Online, www.pmtrainingonline.com. See John's related articles on Requirements at www.pmcrunch.com