Chances are, you have been involved in transitioning from old, slow, outdated systems to state-of-the-art updated systems at some point in your career. So you know that when those transitions are handled well, there is excitement and positivity surrounding the roll-out of the new system.
You also may have experienced the opposite — poor communication and a hastily executed roll-out that leads to frustration, low morale and potentially negative effects on the business. In that situation, you may have even heard yourself or others asking, “Why didn’t they talk to the people who have to use this system first?” And that’s exactly the question you should be asking.
The process of talking to the people who use the system every day is one very important part of requirements management, which is defined as the identification, documentation, analysis, prioritizing, control and approval of the specific requirements of a project (e.g. new system, program or product).
If that sounds like a lot to take on, don’t panic. A professional project manager has the skills and knowledge to facilitate the requirements management process and ensure everyone starts the project on the same page and stays on it throughout implementation.
Requirements management involves the following phases:
Planning – A Requirements Management Plan describes each phase of the requirements gathering process at the business, user and system levels. The way you gather information will depend on the type of project methodology used. Waterfall projects will have most of the planning at the beginning, while Agile projects may require check-ins and additional planning as each phase is completed. We also recommend developing and sharing the requirements plan to minimize confusion and ensure all stakeholders agree on the plan.
Identification – Requirements identification begins with identifying ALL the stakeholders and then learning their system needs. The project management team will decide whether one-on-one interviews, focus groups, questionnaires ‘use cases’ or a combination of methods are the most efficient ways to identify stakeholders for your particular project.
Documentation – To avoid relying on people’s memories of meetings and conversations, the business analyst (or the project resources assigned to this activity) will document all agreed upon requirements and apply a unique ID number to each to trace it throughout the process. Using a process flow chart or diagram to demonstrate various use cases can be extremely helpful in thinking through a process and mapping out how the user will interact with and benefit from the new process or system.
Analysis – Establishing realistic expectations for the new process or system is key to its success. Since every project has a budget and other constraints, the project manager must lead the team in performing a careful analysis to determine the cost, relevance, dependencies and resources required to achieve each requirement.
Prioritizing – The data generated from the analysis phase will help to prioritize requirements. To avoid disagreements later, project managers should always be sure to collect documented approval of the priorities from key stakeholders. Without it, stakeholders will be left wondering why their particular requirements were not implemented.
Control – Just when you think you’re done with requirements identification and have obtained the approvals, some requirements may need to change. Given the constraints like budget and time, the project manager should be flexible enough to adapt quickly, but firm enough to enforce plans and priorities.
Approval – The project manager’s role is to know who has the final say on all project requirements and to ensure every approval is documented in writing.
Seasoned project managers are able to overcome obstacles associated with requirements gathering and will serve as a liaison between the end users and the team that develops the new system, product or program.
Requirements management is a cumulative skill that encompasses many essential aspects of project management. If you already have someone on your team who has mastered this skill set, they are probably a terrific project manager or business analyst. If not, one of our skilled project managers is sure to be a great fit your upcoming project.