If you begin a new project without gathering project requirements from sponsors and end users, you're setting yourself up for failure. Projects are successful when they deliver positive outcomes and satisfy stakeholders' expectations. If your project does not meet project and user expectations, it has failed no matter how fast you completed or kept it within budget.
Say, for example, you’re leading a project to create a new mobile app. You gather project requirements and put together a team of developers, product managers, and creatives. After the launch, however, users complain about the app's interface. They are unable to navigate the app to get anything done.
It turns out that your team had been so focused on satisfying every project requirement gathered from project sponsors that they ignored one crucial user requirement for software projects: keep it simple!
Your team delivered a functioning app but failed to meet users' expectations. Luckily, you can avoid such outcomes by identifying, analyzing, and validating stakeholders' requirements before beginning new projects. This is where requirements analysis comes in.
What is a requirements analysis?
Requirements analysis involves defining, analyzing, validating, and aligning stakeholders' expectations for new projects while considering all possible conflicts.
It’s a process of identifying, analyzing, and managing project requirements to determine what the project should accomplish and eliminate any ambiguities or conflicting requirements in your project plan.
As you conduct the requirements analysis process, remember that any accepted requirements must be:
Defined with sufficient details
Related to overall business needs
When is a requirements analysis carried out?
Typically, you carry out the requirements analysis process before you begin project planning. Additionally, in project management, you conduct requirements analysis when:
Calculating development costs
Setting project priorities
Creating a work breakdown structure
Including project specialists in an ongoing project
Who carries out a requirements analysis?
Project managers carry out project requirements analysis before beginning new projects. The requirement analysis document collects, organizes, and tracks the project requirements from key stakeholders. It guides project planning and ensures you complete your projects aligned with stakeholder and business goals.
Requirements analysis in software engineering
While requirements analysis is beneficial to any project, it is most common in software engineering. In software engineering, requirements analysis, known as requirement engineering, defines expectations for new software being built or modified.
Requirements analysis in software engineering empowers project managers and leaders to maintain clear direction, keep users' needs front-and-center, and develop comprehensive documentation of the development process. Requirements analysis in software engineering is usually an iterative, continuous process throughout a project’s duration, not a one-and-done task.
How do you find out project requirements?
Unearthing the project requirements is the crux of requirements analysis. It starts with identifying and getting input from the most important stakeholders. After identifying these stakeholders, record their project requirements for research and validation before work begins.
There are three main stages in conducting a thorough requirements analysis:
The first step is to gather the requirements by collecting business process documentation and conducting interviews with stakeholders.
Next, analyze and validate the requirements, evaluating whether they're clear, complete, consistent, and unambiguous.
Finally, record the requirements and monitor their implementation throughout the project.
Important stakeholders to consult in the requirements analysis process include clients, end users, team members, and project sponsors. These are usually the stakeholders most impacted by the project, and their needs combine to define the ideal project outcome.
Requirements analysis techniques you need to know
Requirements analysis techniques help you determine the stakeholder expectations that make it through requirements analysis. They also allow you to clarify stakeholders’ expectations in simple, visual language to ensure you are on the same page. Once you have gathered the requirements, write them down in a requirement analysis document and share them with your stakeholders for approval.
If you make changes to this requirement analysis document during the project, record it through a change control procedure and submit it again for approval from the relevant stakeholders.
Requirements analysis techniques for discovering business needs
The following requirement analysis techniques help to discover business needs:
Gap analysis: Gap analysis is a process that studies the business and its goals and provides insights into how this gap can be closed.
Business motivation model (BMM): This analysis technique is structured on an OMG modeling system that supports business decisions reacting to global changes.
Customer journey mapping: With the infusion of storytelling and visuals, customer journey maps help understand your customers' motivation, fears, and objections.
Requirements analysis techniques for identifying software requirements
The following requirement analysis techniques help to identify software requirement needs:
Data flow program: A data flow program (DFP) defines the project scope without delving into elaborate details.
Use cases: Use cases can help define system behavior and communicate from the end user's perspective.
User stories: User stories focus on your users’ needs rather than the features your system should deliver.
What are the challenges of identifying project requirements?
When identifying project requirements, there are some common challenges to expect. Some of these are:
1. Stakeholders don't know what they want
The biggest challenge of requirements analysis is that customers often have a vague idea of what they want. Some clients may know but struggle with communicating it, so it’s up to you to ask the right questions to capture their needs.
2. Requirements are often dynamic
Another challenge of requirements analysis is the evolving nature of requirements. Expectations defined at the start of the project may change as the project progresses. Business trends may impact initial conditions, necessitating an entirely new solution. Have backup plans and change management processes in place to tackle unexpected changes.
3. Poor communication between teams
Due to the difference in technical expertise between project managers, engineers, and users, these stakeholders may not always see eye to eye. It's your job as the project manager to be a mediator and communicator between all involved sides.
4. The development team is oblivious to the organization's politics
Development teams are often oblivious to organizational politics, particularly in large companies with cross-functional teams. Unchecked, this may cause misunderstanding, misalignment of goals, and project failure.
What is the requirements analysis process?
The five-step process below is vital in discovering a project's requirements.
1. Carry out a stakeholder analysis
To discover project requirements, list the key stakeholders involved, from the project sponsor to the end users to the project team.
Having a clear picture of who has a say in the project sets you on the right path to gathering and organizing their expectations before the actual requirements analysis. Once you identify key stakeholders, you can group them by the level of influence and interest they have in your project's success or failure.
High power, highly interested: Closely manage the expectations of stakeholders in this rank. Their requirements should be your top priority. Customers, project sponsors, and end users fall into this category. Watch their closest influencers as well.
High power, less interested: These stakeholders have a significant stake in your project but aren't avid about it. Work hard to keep them satisfied and sustain their interest.
Low power, highly interested: Although these stakeholders do not have a significant stake in your project, keep them informed and communicate regularly to ensure no problems arise.
Low power, less interested: These stakeholders have little interest and stake in your project. Keep them in the loop and maintain your relationship with them, but don't bother them with excess communication.
2. Note each stakeholder's requirements
After you have identified and categorized the project stakeholders, ask each of them for their expectations. What do they want from this product? What is their expected outcome?
When speaking with stakeholders, maintain transparency, clarify the project scope, and contextualize discussions. If you don't do so, stakeholders may set unrealistic project requirements, which will lead to disappointment if you fail to implement their desired functionalities in the project deliverable - an element of output within the scope of a project. It is the result of objective-focused work completed within the project process.
It’s essential to understand each stakeholder’s distinct perspective to create and communicate a clearer picture of your project’s goals. Here are some requirements analysis techniques that will help note stakeholders' requirements:
Host individual interviews: Talk to each stakeholder individually to understand their particular needs and views.
Conduct group interviews: Hold interview sessions involving specific stakeholder groups. These sessions will allow you to form an information overlap that connects the different group expectations.
Utilize use cases: Use cases are scenario-based techniques that walk you through the functionality of a system, software, or service.
Build mock-ups: Prototypes give users an idea of the finished product, making it easier to spot product gaps and user dissatisfaction before launch.
3. Group requirements
After identifying requirements, group them into any of these four categories:
Technical requirements: The technical issues you must solve to complete the project successfully
Operational requirements: The necessary operations that keep the project running over a specified period
Functional requirements: The functional requirements your project must possess to be considered complete or successful
4. Clarify and record requirements
Now, it's time to determine each requirement's feasibility and how the project can deliver them. To achieve this, you must:
Define requirements in clear, sufficiently detailed, and relevant terms.
Rank requirements according to their importance. You have to prioritize requirements because budgets are often limited. List the most critical needs above the "nice-to-haves."
Settle conflicting requirements issues by discussing them with key stakeholders. This is the most valuable step in conducting a requirements analysis. It allows the involved parties to explore several possibilities of the project's outcome and agree on the best one to pursue.
Investigate feasibility. Run a detailed analysis on the potential reliability and usability of the new product or system. This analysis will identify grey areas and possible problems. Record your key findings in a written document, then share them with the previously identified stakeholders.
5. Get a signed agreement
It's not enough to verbally agree on requirements. Get them in writing and have the document signed by key stakeholder groups affirming that the presented requirements accurately reflect their needs. This requirement analysis document, known in software engineering as Software Requirements Specifications (SRS), prevents the likelihood of scope creep issues.
Requirement analysis document example
Your requirement analysis document (RAD) can include text and visual diagrams. It can serve as a contractual agreement between you and your clients and should be written in language stakeholders can understand. Important sections of a requirements analysis document include:
Here’s a requirement analysis document example from Florida State University to inspire yours.
Why use a requirement analysis tool?
A successful project meets all stakeholder expectations. Powerful project management tools make it easy to gather requirements from key stakeholders, offer visibility into the requirements analysis and project planning process, and analyze project requirements in a centralized location and workspace.