Importance of Knowing Requirements and Intended Use

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We have all been there, we are pressing along on a project and all of a sudden there is an additional requirement and you realize it will increase the budget and push out the deadline, but it must be done. What do you do?

Was there a pre-planning meeting with all the requirements laid out with decision makers AND subject matter experts from both sides of the table? No... you just met with that one guy that asked you for a quote…

Well, there you go! Without bringing in the right people to go through expectations, requirements, budget and timelines, you are just asking for disaster. According to the Project Management Institute’s Requirements Management-A Core Competency for Project and Program Success Report, 47% of unsuccessful projects fail to net goals due to poor requirements management. 47%! That is almost 1 out of every 2 projects out there. Additionally, the same report also indicates when inadequate or poor communication is identified “as a primary cause of project failure, three out of four organizations report that the issue negatively affects requirements management (75%!)-more than any other area of their projects including risk, stakeholders, schedule or budget.”

Those are staggering numbers. It probably explains why deadlines and budgets are always changing? And why everyone is upset and stressed out about the project!

This article is not intending to tell you how to do this but rather why. The why is so important to understand, just as much as the how and will save a lot of pain in the long run.

Why manage your customers' expectations and requirements?

1. Sets realistic expectations. The keyword here is realistic. Which leads to:

2. More transparency. When a plan is laid out and both parties can clearly see what is to happen, there is no question what will happen, which will lead to:

3. Less room for interpretation. When everyone is made aware and the details are laid out, there is really no second-guessing or ambiguity. All this leads to:

4. Faster project completion. Complete a project faster? Yes, it can be done, when you stay on track budgets and deadlines are more closely met.

So originally the how wasn’t going to be discussed, but here are the most important that I have found helpful:

1. Involve decision makers, subject matter experts and stakeholders in requirements discussions from both sides of the table. You don’t have to gather 20 people in a room all at the same time, but make it a must either to meet with these people together or individually.

2. Check-in periodically to see if the requirements change or if there are additional requirements. Do this as often as makes sense for the project and this can be formal or informal conversations.

3. Follow a change control process to capture the changes. This process will capture budget changes, timeline changes, potential risks and as well as getting everyone’s buy-in to ensure that the change should happen. If the changes are major, it is also a good idea to put the project on hold to get that buy-in before proceeding.

This all seems like common sense, right? Well yes, but it is very easy to get bogged down with your everyday tasks and just trying to stay sane, so this stuff is so easy to be forgotten. But this process helps so there are no surprises and everyone is on the same page. This builds rapport with the customer and shows customers that you have practical project management from the start of the process. 

Keeping on track, keeping the project transparent, staying on budget and meeting deadlines? That is a win-win for both parties and continued success in project management!

By Kelly Jakinovich