Top 5 Tips for Gathering Requirements

 In Knowledge Center, Top 5 Tips

Submitted by: Steven Cooper

Successful requirements gathering is both an art and a science.  Too often manager’s forget to appreciate the initial importance of early planning and good interpersonal communication which will keep this important step of your project on the right path.

  1. Establish Goals & Objectives Early, Document and Mange: Without clearly stated and documented goals and objectives, you are lacking a framework to guide future decision-making. A critical aspect of this activity is also managing expectations.  Even the best requirements gathering effort is going to miss things because you and your clients are human beings, and human beings make mistakes.
  2. Be Transparent and Confirm: You understand the requirements and your client understands the requirements. But does your client understand your understanding of the requirements? Throughout the project review your documentation and notes and clean them up then share/re-share them with the project team, including the client. Just as important as transparency is confirmation.  Always ensure that the client and you are representing the requirements correctly in whatever format you’re using, then move on.
  3. Talk to The Right People: Ask probing questions in your kickoff and initial meetings with your client to try and get to who the real users are – often those people are not going to be the main decision-makers, but their buy-in is essential to a successful project.
  4. Be an Active Listener: Making someone feel heard is one of the greatest things you can do for them. But it goes beyond just listening to what they say – you also need to listen to what they don’t say, and how they say things, and read their body language.  Don’t assume that you’re always getting the whole story – listen actively.
  5. Get Detailed but be able to Prioritize: Don’t assume that you understand everything.  A seemingly simple requirement such as “we want an online training environment” can mask all sorts of underlying assumptions, requirements, etc.  The devil is in the details.  Ask a lot of questions and don’t rely on assumptions.  Giving yourself time to actively manage requirements throughout the entire project can help you stop scope creep before it starts, and make sure that your team is always focusing on the right set of priorities that match actual requirements.  This time is essential because requirements (being human-driven and human-created) are simply not static.

“We are constantly called to action but are rarely provided the time to gather the true requirements for the project. Between limited information and false deadlines, the end product often ends up not being used or causing more work than value.”

– Alexander M, Walkenbach J. Microsoft Excel Dashboards and Reports. 2nd Edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 2013.

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