How to collect and document project requirements
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Project requirements provide project teams with direction, define project goals and expectations, and allow project managers to hold the project team accountable for reaching milestones and achieving goals.
How you collect and document project requirements before the project begins impacts the overall success of your project. For this reason, it’s wise to carefully plan your project by aligning with your stakeholders and project team members from day one.
Importance of project requirements
Because every project is different, understanding what is unique about your project is important and guides your team through each project phase. Without clear project requirements, you can’t really be certain about your project’s goals, direction, and progress. Project requirements allow you to hold your team accountable.
Without project requirements, you may not set the right goals for your project, may use too many resources, or may not be able to guide your team along. Knowing how to gather project requirements helps eliminate confusion.
Collecting requirements process: How to prep, collect, and document project requirements
Here are some tips to help you get started with documenting your project requirements.
1. Identify goals and requirements with stakeholders
Background preparation combining research with stakeholder interviews can help your team clarify project requirements and set appropriate goals for your project.
For this step, prepare questions for yourself and for your stakeholders, such as:
- Is there a statement of work (SOW) already prepared?
- How does the SOW define your requirements if any are already defined?
- Are you responsible for creating a project brief, or was your team provided with one?
- What information is needed to provide more context for the project goals and requirements? What is missing or unclear?
- Is the scope properly defined?
- Are expectations clear?
- Are there specific metrics that can help your team determine project success or failure?
- Do your goals align with clearly defined metrics?
- Are the goals specific, measurable, relevant, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART)?
Time spent on these requirements isn’t wasted–it’s necessary for your project’s success. Including the right stakeholders in your organization in this process, such as end users, developers, customers, managers, and even other departments can pay off when you have enough context to make better decisions during the process.
2. Create a shared project requirements document that can be easily accessed by teams and stakeholders
Everyone working on the project should be able to access project information as needed. Whenever individual members of the team can’t get the resources they need (including information and documentation), your project may slow down or miss core components that could jeopardize your entire project.
Ensure access to everything your team needs:
- Project notes: Help your team make and use comments and notes.
- Requirement specifics: Descriptions of each requirement, category identifiers, and unique name and number identifiers enable your team to see exactly which requirements are under discussion or development at a specific point in time.
- Business need documentation: Tie requirements back to specific business needs so your team can see at-a-glance why each requirement is important and understand the context around it. This documentation can also help your team make decisions about features and functionality.
Keep this information centralized and accessible to all team members. Ideally, save it in the cloud and practice good version control so your team always has the latest version.
3. Confirm details with stakeholders early
Document the details of your project with follow-up questions and deeper research. For an application, this may mean questions about the system’s cloud architecture, dependencies, userbase, documentation, and questions about processes such as the software’s release cycle.
Top-level questions should lead to deeper, more specific questions . The earlier these questions are answered, the more your team can get decisions and preliminary discussions out of the way.
Here are some questions to help you define detailed information for your project:
- How is data collected and managed? How is user data protected?
- How is data secured?
- What is the user experience (UX) of this application like? How is the UX managed and delivered?
- What design elements and architectures are necessary to provide the right UX?
- What dependencies must be factored into the project planning?
Learning to ask the right questions before the project starts can be very helpful, but you should also ask questions to clarify information with each new sprint and with new discoveries.
4. Set accountability expectations with team and stakeholders
Project managers play a vital role in keeping the team and the project focused on goals and metrics. Expectations must be clear and should reflect business needs, otherwise, your team may be tempted to push or change these expectations since they aren’t sure why the expectations are important.
To set accountability, you may want to implement these ideas:
Use sprints: Break down the project into smaller periods of time, such as one or two-week sprints, to make it more manageable and give your team opportunities to check in with each other on overall progress.
Explain milestones: Document why particular milestones must be completed before other segments of the project can begin. Showing how different aspects of the project are interdependent helps your team complete the right work at the right time.
Highlight roles: Individual team members should be able to see how their roles contribute to the success of the overall project. Appreciation and recognition are important, too. Valuing your team members helps them focus on offering their best, unique contributions to the entire project.
Communicate: Of course, you’ll also want to be in constant communication with your team. Online project management and collaboration solutions like Lucidspark can facilitate this and allow everyone to access the same information throughout the project.
Accountability is less about pressuring team members and more about cheering them on and providing what they need to do great work. As the project moves forward, the project manager holding the team accountable should be able to see steady progress towards the goals and requirements you outlined when the project began.
5. Continue to track and report requirements throughout your project lifecycle
On an ongoing basis, check in with your project team and collect metrics. Benchmark your team’s progress against your goals and expected milestones, adjusting accordingly if your team members encounter challenges, need more resources, or expect the project to take longer than expected.
Compare your progress against the requirements you originally outlined to see if you’re on track. Letting your team know where your progress stands can be helpful for motivating and informing everyone as the project progresses.
Leverage your project requirements
By using your project requirements to define your project, you can save time and resources while keeping your team focused on the features and functionality that counts the most. Collecting and documenting project requirements is a valuable skill that can make a difference for your team.
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