Editors note: In this two-part blog post, we’ll cover the top challenges of requirements management and how to solve them. Today we’ll start with challenge #4, go back and read Part I if you haven’t already to see the top three challenges of requirements management.
Every year, the complexity of projects increases. Requirements documents can be more than 100 pages and change 20 times during the development process. That means you likely spend hours circulating, editing, and tracking changes to a hefty requirements document with the hope that your team reads it and stays engaged.
The problem isn’t the requirements document itself. The problem is in using the document as the place to manage requirements. It’s no longer realistic to use documents to set expectations, communicate project details, and track changes throughout the process of developing today’s complex products.
As the person responsible for ensuring everyone understands what we’re building and why (a.k.a. requirements), you must evolve how you work. You must embrace new techniques and tools to find a better way to communicate requirements and deliver the right solutions while making the process as enjoyable as possible.
Based on our own experience and that of our customers, we compiled the five biggest challenges of requirements management, as well as expert insight into how to conquer each one.
The Top Challenges of Requirements Management
Challenge #4: Attention Deficit
Creating a detailed 200-page plan that no one has time to read, maintain, or review.
You need to articulate your entire plan to everyone included in the product development process. The problem is, most people only care about specific parts of the plan at any given time. If you’re working in documents, that means you’ll spend a lot of time creating something few people will ever read. And, any time an item changes, folks must review the whole thing to find what’s changed and determine each time if it’s relevant to them or not. Eventually, people stop paying attention.
Expert Tip: Be Relevant
Adopt the philosophy that everyone is simply too busy to absorb an entire requirements document. To avoid being frustrated by your organization’s collective attention deficit, relevancy is key.
This is an area where product development solutions can help you break large, complex projects into smaller, manageable parts and let people focus on what’s relevant to them. We recommend you manage the scope of projects item by item to get work done. If you’re curious what we mean by “item,” a requirement is an item. A use case is an item. A test case is an item. A defect is an item.
People naturally work on a list of a few items at a time. It’s how our brains work, and we’re more productive that way. By itemizing the scope of your projects using a solution with a relational database, it will allow people to focus on specific items they are working on, and maintain context of the overall project. Then, as needed for baselines, releases, or milestones, you can group together items and summarize the project via reports or a specification document for a holistic view.
Challenge #5: Mismatched Expectations
Stakeholders think they are getting one thing and are delivered another.
The expectation gap can cause real problems for company morale—not to mention your bottom line. Your development team takes pride in what they created, so when it doesn’t meet expectations, they can feel as though their hard work is wasted. On the other side, stakeholders can feel as though they haven’t been heard or that the development team didn’t understand the request.
Expert Tip: Be Proactive
Every project has changes during development, be they additional things to add or the reprioritization of features as the scope evolves. You must be able to document requests, justifications, decisions, agreements, and approvals made by the appropriate stakeholders. And that information must be available to everyone throughout the development process to ensure a consistent set of expectations.
Without adding a lot of unnecessary overhead, modern requirements management solutions offer the capability to capture the decisions, reviews, approvals, and electronic signatures to scope changes, as well as provide context, all as part of the natural workflow.
With that level of visibility, everyone can be confident they know the plan, and your development team can feel good about delivering what’s promised. And your launch event can be a celebration of your great work rather than an interrogation of what went wrong.