Steps for Getting Great Requirements

Nancy Anderson
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Companies often have customers that place big orders, bringing in steady revenue. Owners negotiate contracts, get the project management team on board and agree to have a certain product finished by a specific time. One of the major problem areas of such projects involves good requirements that contain a lot of detail.

Many good requirements are hard to come by in the initial planning stages of project management. Sometimes a project is so new customers may not even know the needs of the project or the outcome of what the product provides. Planners may just realize they have a good idea and a viable product that they want to make before knowing how end-users respond to the product.

The key for managers becomes turning bad or no requirements from customers into good requirements on highly technical projects. The customer, ideally, hammered out all of these details in the design phase in order to make a working prototype. Yet sometimes that process does not create a way for companies to mass-produce quality products with the facilities and workforce already in place.

To compensate for this lack of planning on the part of customers, a project team needs to ascertain basic project expectations from the customer, set these expectations before the initial kickoff of the project, determine detailed requirements from the customer and track requirements along the way. Team leaders ask questions, examine unattainable goals and turn bad requirements into good requirements that everyone can use in a practical way.

Project managers must know what good requirements entail and relay this information to the customer. A viable project requirement must define one specific aspect of the project. These goals must be complete and consistent, yet traceable and relatable to the current company structure. Each requirement must also be verifiable and quantifiable.

The best way to hammer out project requirements with a customer is to discuss, ask questions and communicate thoroughly before the first item rolls off the assembly line. Discuss goals, product delivery schedules and milestones before the project kickoff.

Plan the project accordingly so everyone knows what happens during every step. All employees, from the entry-level workers to the company owners, must know what occurs and when to avoid unnecessary surprises, hiccups and snafus.

Track everything. Integrate technology that communicates with everyone, such as smartphones and tablets that connect wirelessly with employees and customers to provide real-time data. Tracking the project makes requirements definable and quantifiable as your company reaches goals set by the customer.

Bad requirements mean a lot of rework, delays, higher budgets and frustrated customers. The end-user, meaning the customer's customers, do not buy the final product until much later than originally expected when there's a lack of planning. Alleviate these concerns before your company makes a single item by setting good requirements with realistic goals and constant communication.

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