In order to create a successful project and deliver a quality product, you have to start by building your project plan on a firm foundation. That foundation is created by gathering project requirements. Too many project managers either overlook the importance of requirements management or fail to understand the difference between scope, requirements, and expectations.
What is requirements management?
Requirements are the demands, needs, and specifications for a product as outlined by project stakeholders and team members. Requirements come in many forms. They can be product related requirements, performance requirements, quality requirements, project management requirements, and stakeholder requirements.
Requirements management process
To build a strong foundation for your project, start with these five areas of requirements management.
Project requirements gathered can be related to the project, performance, quality, project management—anything considered an “absolute must”. They can come from the project manager, the project stakeholder, or the project team members and can also include specific budgets and timelines.
After all the stakeholder's requirements have been collected and clarified you can start to define the scope. It is fairly common in the project management world for people to use the terms "requirements" and "scope" synonymously, but they are different. The project scope sets the boundaries, or constraints, for the product. It's important to gather and define all the stakeholder requirements first so you can make sure that the requirements are doable within the scope agreed upon.
Project requirements and product requirements
Understand that as a project manager, you will be expected to manage your project requirements and your product requirements.
Project requirements define how the work will be managed. This includes project cost management, communication management, resource management, quality assurance, risk management, and scope management. Project requirements focus on who, when, where, and how something gets done. Project requirements are generally documented in the Project Management Plan.
Product requirements include high-level features or capabilities that the business team has committed to delivering to a customer. Product requirements do not specify how the features or the capabilities will be designed.
Create a requirements management plan
When you have your initial kick-off meeting to gather requirements, make sure that you document everything and keep it in a requirements management plan. Whenever you have a status meeting, refer back to the documented requirements plan to remind stakeholders of the original agreements.
This way, if they think of additional requirements or accuse you of missing a requirement mid-project, you can point to your documentation and have a discussion from there about what implementing this new requirement will entail and how it will affect outcomes and scope.
Ask for details
Remember, detail is your best friend when it comes to requirements management. Often, if project managers do not "dig deep" and ask lots of questions to clarify the details of a requirement, they end up with misunderstandings.
The problem is, different people can interpret different requirements in different ways. The more questions you ask and the more specific you get, the better off you'll be. Everyone will interpret requirements based on their own knowledge and experience and that there's no way to ensure against getting the interpretation wrong. Getting the big picture right is important but so are the minute details.
Manage stakeholder expectations
Finally, keep in mind that when somebody requests a product from you, they may trust you to get it done, but they still have their own idea of how they want the completed product to look, act, feel, and perform. This is another reason it's important for you to get as many details as you can when gathering requirements—because it helps you understand the stakeholder's expectations that they may not have even known they had.
It's common during the process of a project to discover new expectations that don't align with the originally documented requirements. If you always have specific requirements that are well documented in your requirements management plan and you communicate regularly, you will either be able to reset their expectations or find a way to incorporate their expectations—when it doesn't cause you to exceed budget or move outside of the project scope.
Managing requirements for project success
If you're able to remember these five things when managing requirements, you will be better able to create project foundations on which you can build solid products and have more successful project outcomes.