Requirements Gathering: A Quick Guide

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Imagine that you’re taking the lead on a new IT project that involves building a call center from the network to the servers. The call center itself will house hundreds of jobs and will bridge the gap between customer and product.

There are many requirements for a big project like this and as a project manager, you keep track of them all. Requirements gathering is a step in the requirements management process, which consists of gathering, documenting and analyzing project requirements.

We’ll start with a requirements gathering definition and then we’ll look into the process and tools you can use.

What Is Requirements Gathering?

Requirements gathering, or requirements elicitation, is the process of determining all the requirements of a project. There are two main types of project requirements, business and technical requirements.

Business requirements define what an organization will accomplish with the project, while technical requirements explain how the project must be executed. They’re gathered during the initiation phase of the project life cycle, but project managers need to monitor them throughout the project timeline, as they can change.

Project management software can help with requirements gathering. ProjectManager is a cloud-based work and project management software that organizes your requirements. Use our task list project view to collect, prioritize and assign your project requirements. Plus, once in our software, they’re tracked in real-time with live dashboards and reporting features. Get started with ProjectManager for free today.

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Truly effective requirements gathering and management is started at the very beginning of the project, and must answer the following questions:

  • How long will the project timeline be?
  • Who will be involved in the project?
  • What are the risks for the requirements gathering process?
  • What is our ultimate goal in understanding our project requirements?
  • What are our technical and business requirements?

It sounds fairly simple, but it’s incredibly important. Once the project team has gathered requirements, they should be compiled in a requirements document.

What Is a Requirements Document?

A requirement document is used to explain what is needed from the product. Among the things it defines is the product vision and how it must be achieved by the end of the project. It doesn’t go into details about how it will be delivered, though. It’s more to put the product in context, as why the product is needed or what problem it’s solving. The details of how it will do this are not included.

Related: Free Requirements Gathering Template

Why is Requirements Gathering Important?

Remember back to the last project you managed. What were the risks that came to light? Which resources did you run out of? Was there any scope creep or budgetary mishaps? And overall, what were the impacts of those shortcomings on the project as a whole?

Deadlines, scope, cost overrun—without proper requirements identification at the outset, all of those elements will be affected. Design issues to the product will be impacted, and developmental delays will occur. Ultimately, your product won’t be set up for optimal success as it faces an overrun budget.

Requirements Gathering Process

So, how do you gather requirements in the most effective and manageable way possible? Typically, requirements gathering is made up a few discrete steps.

1. Appoint and Assign

First things first: who’s going to be the person that tells everyone you’re the project manager? Ensure that that person understands why this role is so important—everyone must go to you with all project updates, as you will act as the knowledge center for project progress.

You’ll also want to identify who the key stakeholders will be. These will be the people who brainstorm, analyze, approve or deny project updates. They’re typically made up of customers, team leads, department managers, board members, business partners or manufacturers. They’ll have the most say in the progress of the project overall.

2. Elicit Requirements & Interview

Next, you’ll want to interview all of the stakeholders that you identified. Ask them questions like:

  • What is on your wishlist for this product update?
  • What is your ultimate goal for this project?
  • What do you wish this product would do that it doesn’t already?
  • What got you interested in this product in the first place?
  • What changes would convince you to recommend this product to others?
  • What tools would you need to make this project successful?
  • What are the concerns you have for this project process?

3. Gather and Document

Write absolutely everything down. Write until you can’t write anymore. Record every single answer, and create an easily-accessible repository where (approved) others can access if they need to reference any information that was collected during the requirements gathering phase.

Not only will this documentation be helpful at the end of the project when you reflect back on goals achieved, updates accomplished, features added and bugs fixed, it will also act to help manage stakeholder expectations, and keep team members focused and on track.

4. List All Assumptions & Requirements

This is the meat of the process. Once you’ve documented everyone’s goals and expectations, you can create a requirements management plan that’s actionable, measurable and quantifiable.

During this phase you’ll answer:

  • How long will the project timeline be? Map out your timeline, and then map out your requirements on that timeline. This will help in case some requirements are contingent on dependencies.
  • Who will be involved in the project? Will it be the entire design and development teams, or just a select few from each? Which team members will be available? Which team members specialize in the types of issues the project will tackle?
  • What are the risks for the requirements gathering process? Define all assumptions, and document all risks that might impact your requirements. Understand that your assumptions are typically divided into three categories: time, budget and scope. They can range from assuming PTO, holidays and sick days, to assuming stakeholders will provide feedback in a timely manner.
  • What is our ultimate goal in understanding our project requirements? What is the time-based goal, the budget goal and the scope goal? Will it be to compete in the market more directly with a competitor? Will it be to solve a customer problem, or fix a bug?

By answering all of the questions above in a clear and concise manner, you’ll have a full map of your requirements ready to present to stakeholders.

5. Monitor Progress

Once you’ve gotten stakeholder approval on the requirements you’ve presented, you’ll implement them into the project timeline and process. At this point, you’ll want to make sure you have a method in place to monitor and track all of your requirements across all teams to ensure that triggers for risk stay low.

You’ll also want to use this data to report project progress to stakeholders, give feedback to department managers, and ensure the project is on track from a time, scope and budget standpoint. Our free requirements traceability matrix is a great tool to keep track of project requirements.

Requirements Gathering Techniques

Now that we know what requirements gathering is and we’ve explored the steps of the requirements gathering process, you’ll want to have good sources from which to get them. The primary sources are stakeholders, such as customers, users, et al. Other sources could include experts, analysts and information about competitors.

Once the sources have been identified, there are a number of techniques that can be applied to gather the requirements. This is an iterative process and no one requirements gathering technique is going to do the job by itself. You’ll need to use as many as you feel necessary. Here are some of the top requirements gathering techniques.

Use Case Scenarios

A use case is a document that explains how users will perform tasks on your product. It is written from a user’s point of view and done in steps that include: who’s using the product, what they want from the product, the user’s goal, the steps they take to accomplish their task and how the product responds to their action.

Brainstorming

Conduct a brainstorming session with a group of participants who can say whatever they want about the product as long as they feel it’s important. Have a facilitator lead the group, organizing and prioritizing their responses. Start by explaining the objective of the brainstorming session, get the group to provide as many ideas as possible, don’t criticize or debate and when done gather all the information.

Related: Free action items template

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is another way to gather ideas. It involves creating a mind map, which starts by placing the central idea in the center of a page. Then use lines, arrows, speech bubbles and different colors to show the connection between the central theme and the ideas that stem from it. It allows for an organic development of ideas relating to your central idea. It shows how different facts are related.

Requirements Gathering Tools

At the end of the project, the ability to analyze and understand the success or failure is entirely contingent on the tools you use to document everything.

So, as we mentioned, before you even begin, you’ll want a repository for all of your documentation. Maybe this is a file-sharing system where all documents can be accessed by multiple users from the same server. Or the tool you need involves a time tracking system you can use to analyze the time each team member spent on certain areas of previous projects to understand how long it might take them on this one.

It would also be beneficial to download a requirements gathering template to get a leg up on your project process. This will help everyone align with business requirements, user requirements and system requirements.

Whatever the tools may be, make sure it can be accessed from multiple locations, on multiple computers, no matter where each person involved is stationed. You’ll want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to communicate, send updates and provide feedback across all channels.

Requirements Gathering Templates

Whatever technique or combination thereof for requirements gathering, you’ll need to have them collected in a document. Templates are a great tool to gather requirements and more. ProjectManager is the online hub for free templates related to any aspect of a project. Here are a few that can help you with requirements gathering.

Requirements Gathering Template

The first free template is our requirements template for Word. There’s a cover page to distinguish the requirements gathering from other projects and a place to track any revisions to the document. Then you can describe the project, it’s purpose, scope and timeline. There’s even a space for stakeholders to capture their thoughts.

Stakeholder Analysis Template

Speaking of the stakeholders, our free stakeholder analysis template for Excel will help you identify and manage your stakeholders. You can use this free template to describe the stakeholders involved with the project, what their relationship to the project is and the level of commitment, which helps you plan how to manage them.

Project Plan Template

Finally, you’re going to have to take all this information and use it to inform your plan. Our free project plan template for Word helps you scope out the work and make it down into manageable tasks. There’s also room to manage your team’s workload. The project plan template takes all the requirements gathering and puts it to practical use.

ProjectManager Helps with Requirements

The key to any great project is to have all requirements gathered from the outset. This requires a seamless method of communication across all channels and a repository that can hold data for an endless amount of time. ProjectManager has tools that make that not only possible but easy. With our cloud-based software, you and your team can host an unlimited amount of documents so you can store any requests from people for any length of time.

Plan Your Project on Interactive Gantt Charts

Need a Gantt chart that’s cross-functional with a time-tracking system? Our software hosts hybrid tools that can adapt as your project moves forward. Our Gantt does everything Gantts are known for and more. You can filter for the critical path and set a baseline to track the variance between your planned effort and actual progress.

ProjectManager Gantt chart

Use Multiple Project Views

Our software has multiple project views so what you plan on the Gantt is updated across the entire tool, be that the kanban board, task list, sheet or calendar view. Everyone can work how they want and communicate in real time no matter where they are.

ProjectManager has multiple project views such as project calendars to help with requirements gathering

Collaborative to the Core

ProjectManager is great for teams looking to communicate with more transparency across multiple locations. With our software, you can collaborate effectively and with ease by adding comments from key stakeholders or team members. Plus, appointees can schedule tasks and make alerts to ensure clients are being well managed and the timeline stays intact.

ProjectManager's team collaboration features help with requirements gathering

Our platform is the single source of truth for your project. Email notifications and in-app alerts keep you updated on comments and progress. Real-time dashboards and one-click reports deliver the live data you need to make insightful decisions to deliver a successful project.

Gathering and managing requirements across multiple teams are no easy feat. Ensure that team members and stakeholders are up-to-date no matter what. ProjectManager is award-winning software that helps teams collaborate effectively across multiple channels. Get started today for free.

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