Project Management Institute

Accurate requirements

VOICES | Project Toolkit

Just as laying a proper foundation makes a house strong, establishing the proper requirements is the start of project success. We asked practitioners: When it comes to requirements management, what’s your top technique?

ADOPT THE USER’S PERSPECTIVE

“In the last few years, agile approaches have steadily entered the project management realm. Agile is very well known for its development sprints. However, just as important is the way agile approaches requirements management. The traditional way to express requirements is by describing the product. With agile, however, you generate user-centric requirements expressed from the user’s point of view.

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If we were creating a GPS traffic application for smartphones, the traditional way to express a requirement may be written as: ‘The application will provide the user the shortest route to their destination.’

In contrast, that same requirement using the customer-centric agile approach would be written: ‘As a commuter, I want to be shown the fastest route, so that I can save time and fuel costs.’

These requirements emphasize who the consumer (the ‘commuter’) of the requirement is, followed by the business value of the requirement.

With agile methodologies, there is flexibility. The consumer of the requirement can be the end user, an engineer or even a test system.”

—Julio Calderon, PMP, assistant vice president, program manager, Bank of Internet Federal Bank, San Diego, California, USA

ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS

“I’ve found that one of the key errors in requirements management is not digging deep enough with questions to get at the heart of the customer’s needs.

In my current role, I am tasked with building requirements documents for software implementations. I recommend using an iterative approach when possible. This allows for the customer to review the tool and see it in action before deciding on all requirements. Many people don’t realize exactly what they need until they see it.

I struggled with requirements gathering for many years. It took a lot of failing before I started to get the hang of it and learned to ask lots of questions—to have as many wireframes or images as possible, to tell a story. Don’t ever make assumptions. Ask even seemingly simple questions instead.”

—Molly Swenson, PMP, senior project manager, SAP (a PMI Global Executive Council member), New York, New York, USA

REVISIT REQUIREMENTS OFTEN

“Requirements management should be an ongoing process. Requirements must be consistently captured and monitored—through the project charter during the initial project stage, through the project plans during the planning phase and in the form of detailed checklists and formal reviews during the execution phase. The requirements issues can be addressed through weekly issue logs and regular team meetings.

First Things First

Strong requirements management makes good sense—and business sense:

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▪ When inadequate or poor communication is a primary cause of project failure, three out of four organizations report that the issue negatively affects requirements management more than any other area of their projects. ▪ For every dollar spent on projects and programs, 5.1 percent is wasted due to poor requirements management. This amounts to US$51 million wasted for every US$1 billion spent. ▪ Only 24 percent of organizations report doing well in recognizing and developing skills needed for effective management of requirements.

img Find out more about requirements management in PMI’s Pulse of the Profession® In-Depth Report: Requirements Management — A Core Competency for Project and Program Success at PMI.org/Pulse.

It is my experience that when you capture the stakeholders’ requirements, analyze them and communicate openly how they will be addressed, it generates tremendous confidence and trust in the stakeholders and clients.”

—Nitin Dave, PMP, project manager, WorleyParsons, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

CROWDSOURCE EXPECTATIONS

“The key to successful requirements management is identifying what the new system or product will do for all appropriate stakeholders.

You must understand each group’s perspective and gather the different requirements to build a complete picture of what the project should achieve. Ask each stakeholder or group of stakeholders for their requirements from the new product or service. What do they want and expect from this project?

If possible, push beyond questions: Build a mock-up or model of the system or product to give users an idea of what the final product will look like. With this, users can address feasibility issues and help identify any inconsistencies and problems.

Sometimes, use cases—a scenario-based technique—let you walk through the whole system or process, step by step, as a user. It helps you understand how the system or service would work. This is good for gathering functional requirements. You might want to find existing use cases for similar types of systems or services.”

—Harpreet Kalra, PMP, delivery manager-project management, SunLife Financial, Gurgaon, India

SET LIMITS WHEN NEEDED

“When dealing with complex projects involving requests from many disparate stakeholders, start by grouping requests into categories or themes, and decide what share of resources to allocate to each. Often, stakeholders want more implemented right away than they really need, and this method ensures that there is proper allocation of resources across the board.

By setting a limit, it is possible to apply healthy pressure on the business side and define minimum viable features targeted for an initial release. After this, it is possible to gradually add more functionality if end customers respond positively.

Another important thing is to never accept solutions, only requirements. Some business stakeholders mix these up. The solution should be separated and brought to light by a creative process within the development organization.”

—Mattias Hallberg, PMP, head of project management, Rakuten Inc., Tokyo, Japan

A 3-Step Solution

Stress is a natural defense mechanism to keep us alert to possible danger. It’s also subjective: During the same project, one team member may feel much more stress than another. Alan Patching and Rick Best’s 2014 study, “An investigation into psychological stress detection and management in organizations operating in project and construction management,” published in the journal Procedia—Social and Behavioral Sciences, suggests three steps for managing individuals’ stress levels:

  1. Note job-related stressors and apply risk management strategies
  2. Monitor when a team member seems stressed and teach him or her coping techniques
  3. Monitor the results

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

FEBRUARY 2015 PM NETWORK

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