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 divide between customer and product.
You already have the facility, you just need a few resources to make it happen. This might look like desks, computers, a network architecture, a server stack and closet, plus endpoints like computers/workstations. But what team members will you need? How long will it take? What will the budget look like?
Addressing these needs and answering these questions is what requirements gathering is all about. So, let’s talk about requirements gathering—what is it, how does it work and why is it so important to project success?
What is Requirements Gathering?
Primarily done during stakeholder meetings, requirements gathering is the exploratory process of researching and documenting project requirements. Shockingly, more than 70 percent of failed projects miss the mark due to a lack of requirements gathering. That no small number.
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?
It sounds fairly simple, but it’s incredibly important.
Why is Requirements Gathering so 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.
Effective Requirements Gathering & Management
So, how do you gather requirements in the most effective and manageable way possible? Typically, requirements gathering is made up a few discrete steps.
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.
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?
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.
ProjectManager.com offers unlimited file storage, along with award-winning project and task management tools, making it a complete project management software solution. Gather requirements, and store them online. Then quickly make project plans and assign tasks. Track work until completion. It can all be done with ProjectManager.com.
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.
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 stays 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.
What Tools Can You Use to Gather Requirements?
At the end of the project, the ability to analyze and understand the success or failure is entirely contingent around 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.
ProjectManager.com 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.com 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. Need a Gantt chart that’s cross-functional with a time tracking system? Our software hosts hybrid tools that can adapt as your project progresses.
ProjectManager.com 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.
Gathering and managing requirements across multiple teams is no easy feat. Ensure that team members and stakeholders are up-to-date no matter what. ProjectManager.com is an award-winning software that helps teams collaborate effectively across multiple channels. Sign up for our free 30-day trial today.