It is completely natural that you want your project to be successful, no matter the role you play in it. The whole point of creating something new in your business is that it will expand your company in some way or bring you more profit. However, it sometimes seems like a dream that can only be reached by pure luck or a rare chance. Well, not always. Most of the people working deep in the industry recognise that success is based on factors and actions that can be controlled. Therefore, there can be a set of rules that will increase the likelihood of your success.
During my career of being a Project Manager in software development, I noticed that good requirements are the basic sold for the success of your company. They are critical to ensure that the end product meets the needs of the stakeholders and users. Good requirements help define the problem or need the software intends to solve, break down the requirements into specific tasks, and ensure that the software is scalable, maintainable, and adheres to any constraints or limitations. In this article, we will explore the key components of good requirements for IT development.
1. Clearly Define the Problem or Need
The first step in developing good requirements is to clearly define the problem or need that the software is intended to solve. This should include a thorough understanding of the business problem or need and the objectives of the project. It is important to involve stakeholders in this process to ensure that everyone is aligned on the goals of the project.
This step is often disregarded and instead of presenting the “Why” a jump to “How” occurs. This limits the understanding of reasons behind the real need and possibilities to find the optimal solution.
2. Identify the Stakeholders and Gather Their Requirements
Identifying the stakeholders who will be affected by the software and gathering their requirements is critical to the success of the project. This includes end-users, business owners, technical staff, and other stakeholders who may have an interest in the project. Gathering requirements from stakeholders can be done through interviews, surveys, and other techniques to ensure that their needs are fully understood.
Sometimes the Product Owners fall under the “curse of knowledge”, so what they learned and understood about the product is their guide, which at the same time blocks them from updating their perspective. It is a pit that is very easy to fall into due to a lack of time and resources.
3. Break Down the Requirements into Specific, Measurable, and Achievable Tasks
Once the requirements have been gathered, it is important to break them down into specific, measurable, and achievable tasks. This will help to ensure that the development team has a clear understanding of what needs to be done and how it will be measured. The tasks should be broken down into small, manageable pieces that can be easily tracked and completed.
I like to follow INVEST as a guide in terms of decomposing the requirements and always remember to validate the rules with the whole team – on the business as well as the development side – to get the most clarity.
4. Prioritize the Requirements Based on Importance and Dependencies
Prioritizing the requirements based on importance and dependencies is critical to the success of the project. It is important to ensure that the most critical requirements are completed first and that dependencies are understood and addressed. This will help to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.
Keeping and updating the priorities and dependencies ensures that the project goes well in a sustainable manner. It is critical that those loops of updates happen periodically to reflect the current situation.
5. Specify Any Constraints or Limitations
It is important to specify any constraints or limitations that the software must adhere to. This may include technical limitations, regulatory requirements, or other constraints that must be considered during development. This will help to ensure that the software meets the needs of the stakeholders and is compliant with any relevant regulations.
In my experience more often than not constraints like external dependencies bring risk, so keeping them clearly in mind in relation to the prioritized task allows managing them early and successfully, even if challenges along the way appear.
6. Use Simple and Precise Language
Using simple and precise language is critical when developing requirements. Avoiding technical jargon and ambiguity will help to ensure that everyone involved in the project has a clear understanding of what needs to be done. This will help to reduce confusion and ensure that the project is completed successfully.
Each project team may settle in a specific, hermetic vocabulary of names and structures, which if kept track of, allow the swift introduction of a new person to the project as well as clarity. It is worth keeping a structure for that also for the people outside of the team, so if there is a problem with understanding within the team – there will for sure be one too with outsiders.
7. Keep in Mind Scalability and Maintainability
Keeping scalability and maintainability in mind throughout the requirement-gathering process is critical. This will help to ensure that the software can grow and adapt as the needs of the stakeholders change over time. Additionally, ensuring that the software is maintainable will help to reduce the cost of ownership and ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the stakeholders over time.
This will also help to limit technical debt at the later stages of the product life cycle or at least manage it without too many unpleasant surprises.
8. Continuously Validate and Verify the Requirements
Continuously validating and verifying the requirements throughout the development process with stakeholders and end-users is critical. This will help to ensure that the software is meeting the needs of the stakeholders and is on track to meet the objectives of the project. Additionally, this will help to identify any issues early on in the development process, reducing the cost of changes later on.
I have never been able to create and clearly describe a requirement, that would without any changes go through the development process. There are always possibilities – if not to change, then at least to optimize in that area. Even if it seems like a cumbersome process – keeping the requirements clean is necessary.
9. Document the Requirements in an Accessible Format
Documenting the requirements in a format that is easily accessible and understandable by both the development team and stakeholders is critical. This may include using diagrams, flowcharts, or other visual aids to help explain the requirements. Additionally, the requirements should be documented in a way that is easily searchable and can be updated.
Personally – I like to use JIRA and Confluence to store, structurize, manage and keep tasks visible throughout the process.
In conclusion, there are steps you can take to ensure an increased likelihood of your success. Once you invest your time into defining the requirements of your software development you are one big step closer to increasing your chances of success.
However, let’s not stop here. Since not all requirements are created equal, it’s essential to have a framework in place to help ensure that the requirements you create are clear, concise, and actionable. A best practice is following the INVEST framework, that we covered previously.
You should also consider the model of development you choose according to your needs and the funds that are required for your project’s realization. All of this could be easier once you consider outsourcing as your choice. If you need any help when developing software for your company you can contact us or me directly at LinkedIn and rely on our experience and expertise in this field.