How to manage business requirements gathering in a project? 4 Tips.

Managing Business Requirements
Every IT Project Manager needs to have a good idea about how SDLC(Software Development Life Cycle) and Project Management fit with each other.

In this article we will have a look at the importance of managing the requirements gathering phase in a project.

For the sake of this article we are going to look at a project which is planned in the traditional waterfall model. A typical IT Project always starts with the requirement gathering phase. 

The requirement gathering phase will need a Business Analyst or Systems Analyst to work with the user(aka Business Users or Business or SME) of the software or application to determine what are the changes required. 

At the end of this phase the Business Analyst should have the Functional Requirements Document ready.4

From a project managers perspective it is important to watch out for the following  -

#1 : Engage Right Stakeholders or SMEs to collect business requirements

Managing Business Requirements
In a large organisation it is often difficult to find out who the right stakeholders are.  It is important you identify the right stakeholders so that the requirements are valid and genuine.

Also, as a project manager you will have to make sure the SMEs are available and actively participate in the requirements gathering process.

A few things which should be considered - 
  1. Find out how similar projects were run in the organisation before.  
  2. Another way is to study the business process to find out which team or department is most affected by the project. 
  3. Check with the project sponsor for the key stakeholders as sponsors are generally senior people who have been around the organisation for sometime. 
  4. Involve the technical experts from IT side to get any early feedback on system limitations.
  5. Educate the business users about the system limitations.
  6. Find out if the business has the appetite to draft a Business Requirements Document.If yes then you should strongly recommend having a Business Requirements Document.

#2 : Control Business Requirements Scope  and limit change

If the scope of the project is changing too much then the initial plan or proposal that the project was based on will need to be revisited. You cannot control the scope but you can for sure manage it. A few things a project manager can do - 
  1. Make sure that any scope changes are documented and highlighted early to all the stakeholders. 
  2. Make the user or the person(or SME) defining the requirements aware of the project timeline, budget and any other constraints on which the project was started.
  3. Educate the project team to not start work or change documentation whenever adhoc changes are requested. 
  4. Consult IT experts early in the process to see if there any non-functional requirements like security, audit etc for the project. 

Everyone involved in the project should follow the change management process.

#3 : Review the Project Plan and Estimates based on the latest business requirements

Managing Business Requirements
When the project starts the project team would have put down estimates based on the information available at that time. 

After the requirements are firmed up it is very crucial to revisit the estimates and the project plan. Some of the checkpoints for a project manager - 
  1. Revisit the estimates with the team by walking them through the latest requirements.
  2. Revisit the project plan and tasks to make sure all the tasks are captured.
  3. If there are any scope additions make sure the project sponsor and stakeholders are aware of the scope changes.
If you need help in drafting a project plan please see How to Create a Simple Project Plan.

#4 : Business Requirements Sign-off

Managing Business Requirements
It is absolutely necessary that the requirements are signed off by the users or business so that design and development can start.

A project manager also needs to needs to make sure that the IT Project team is comfortable with the requirements and it is possible to implement them.

As a project manager you need to make sure that you record and maintain the sign off from the business as that will the contract for project.

Without having adequate sign-off on the requirements change management in the project will be a nightmare.

#5 : Some other things a project manager may want to consider - 

  1. Using a requirements tractability matrix to see if all the current project requirements are met.
  2. Start any design and development tasks which are less likely to change as a result of change in requirements.
  3. Make sure a standard format for requirements documentation is used.
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