Planning Requirements Discovery

business-requirements-reportEarlier this week I was invited to attend a webinar presented by IAG Consulting about Requirements Discovery Outsourcing. It was quite informative to see their perspective on adding structure to Requirements Discovery.

IAG’s service offering is, as they call it, “an inch wide and several miles deep.” All they do is requirements discovery for projects of $1 million and upward, but they do it really, really well. So, they’ll get involved in the project early on, help you to define the scope and then hammer out the requirements in 2 – 3 weeks of full time, dedicated workshops. And they expect every stakeholder to be in those workshops full time. (That’ll be nice if we can get that right, wouldn’t it?)

The biggest learning I took from the webinar is how they formalise requirements discovery. Its done on a fixed-price basis with agreed deliverables, that include a Requirements Management Plan and a Business Requirements Specification.

The Requirements Management Plan is the one that really fascinated me. They describe the purpose of the document as follows:

“The Requirements Management Plan Document identifies the approach the Requirements Management and Business Analysis team will use in following the Requirements Discovery Process to define the requirements for the project. ¬†It describes the functions, responsibilities, and procedures for Requirements Management within the project. This plan covers all requirements work within the project, beginning with the development of the project vision, and progressing through the development and management of the requirements.”

They plan the requirements discovery as if is a separate project, with milestones, dependencies and deliverables. I’ve had the responsibility of leading a BA team on a couple of really big projects and it’s always difficult to tell the PM up front how long the analysis is going to take, who will be involved and when the requirements documents are going to be available. Therefore this approach, combined with the idea of formalising it in a Requirements Management document really appeals to me.

The advantages of compiling a Requirements Management Plan that I can see are:

  • It forces you to spend some time to decide how you are going to gather¬†requirements.
  • It lets the business know up front what you expect of them, who must be involved and when you are going to need time from them.
  • It defines the exact deliverables of the requirements discovery effort and prepare the project team for what they must expect.
  • And, of course, it forces you to time-box the analysis, something we all hate to do, but have to do.

The different elements of the document are:

Scope: The scope of the requirements discovery – which project, which phase, which iteration.

Requirements Organisation: Who is responsible for managing, gathering, approving, changing and reviewing the requirements. These are all different roles in their world. In this section they also include all SME’s and business stakeholders that must be involved and for which part of the requirements they will take responsibility.

Requirements Documentation Standards: They go into a lot if detail in this section of the document, including tools, modeling standards, requirements traceability, down to the level of how metadata will be defined and standards for use cases. Lastly they define the work products that will be produced. The added advantage is that this gives the business a quick lesson in how to understand the requirements documents.

Requirements Management Methodology: In this part of the document, it is explained what the approach will be, the format of workshops, how requirements reviews will be done, how requirements changes will be dealt with and how requirements will be prioritised.

Requirements Work Plan: The plan defines when each workshop will be held, who must be involved, when reviews will take place and when business will be required to approve the requirements documentation. This way business stakeholders can plan their involvement up front and make themselves available for workshops.

The Requirements Management Plan provides a way to manage the expectations of both the business and the rest of the project team. I’m already busy making some changes to the template and adapting it to my environment – can’t wait to try this on my next project!

IAG Consulting has been kind enough to make a template for the Requirements Management Plan as well as all their other templates, available here. You do have to register to get access, but so far I haven’t received any spam from them.

There is also an on-demand version of the webinar available on the Modern Analyst website.

Enjoy the weekend!

 

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