4 Tips to Create a Flawless Business Requirements Document
In the Agile environment, client representatives work together with developers to ensure that the objectives are met as the project progresses. This environment allows ambiguous requirements as the collaborative working techniques mean that certainty comes continuously testing iterations of the end product until it fulfills the business requirements.
In the non-Agile environment, you can spend weeks working with the system details, if not longer, before handing over the requirements to the team who will eventually build it.
No matter what environment you’re working in, you need to make sure that there is complete certainty in the requirements document, or your clients won’t get what they want.
And always remember: the project requirements list is not a document for you; it is a list of detailed instructions for the development team.
So how can you start with creating a great requirements document?
1. Make sure that you are as specific as possible
Define all aspects, constraints and any legislation with which the solution must comply. Look for any other systems with which the solution must integrate. What security will be needed? Define exactly what the purpose is and remove out any assumptions.
2. Verify the requirements document with the client prior to its distribution
You should ensure that you have understood and documented client requirements in a way that is meaningful and clear. Include wireframes, screen mock-ups or models if this helps eliminate ambiguity. Once the client is happy that their requirements have been adequately recorded, you are ready to start the next stage of the project and build the solution.
3. Make sure that there is no ambiguity between what your business users want and what your own understanding is
Organize a workshop to elicit what business users really want from your project. This is an opportunity for brainstorming – if they could have anything as a result of this piece of work, you should uncover it. Get them to be clear about their requirements, ask all possible questions, and then negotiate.
4. Involve a business analyst
All steps above assume that you are preparing the requirements yourself, but you can also invite a business analyst. Business analysis is a toolset aimed at eliciting requirements and ensuring that solutions fit the purpose. Business analysts are excellent facilitators with a good working knowledge of business processes. They can work together with you on a project to eliminate uncertainty and provide the translation from business-oriented to project-oriented that you and the rest of the team may need.
A good requirements document (whether it is written by you or a business analyst) will not only ensure your product is built exactly as you wanted, but also forms a way of checking off users’ needs at the testing stage. It will define the basis of the user testing documentation and if it is very detailed, for example including process maps, it may save you (or your expert testers) time on writing test scripts.
Can you skip the requirements phase?
If you want to skip preparing the requirements documentation for the project, it won’t be a good practice, but it can happen sometimes. It is inevitable that at some point in your career you will work on a project where there is simply no time for a full requirements document, even if you have someone to help or do it all by yourself.
In these situations, it is essential to work with your team to revise project items as you go along. It could be risky, but if it is a well-defined and relatively simple project then this approach can save a lot of time. Just remember to update the requirements document as you go along – so in the end, you have an accurate record of what has been done.
Finally, if you hesitate about whether or not your team can handle the uncertainty of not having proper requirements to start with, make the time to fully gather all the requirements and to document the output – it will be worth it.