Requirement gathering for software development is a critical step in the lifecycle of a project. Yet it is often rushed, leading to shortcomings in the finished project. Here’s why requirement gathering deserves both time and attention, as well as how the team can work together to make the process more comprehensive and efficient.
What Is The Purpose Of Requirement Gathering?
The purpose of requirement gathering is to understand the problem and provide an efficient software solution. This involves taking into account, the requirements of various stakeholders—as well as analysing them, documenting them and managing them so that the software development process is not only timely, but also effective.
When requirement gathering is not done in an actionable and defined way, stakeholders tend to focus on what they think are solutions, rather than outlining their requirements.
By focussing on what the solution should be, the team often neglects to understand all it could be. Though there is no all-encompassing checklist when it comes to requirement gathering, there are common mistakes we all make during the process, which when remedied via best practices, allow for a software solution that satisfies the end objective.
Asking What Rather Than Asking Why
It is a natural tendency for us to design and visualise the solution rather than analyse the business case or problem during the requirement gathering process. Instead of letting the solution mistakenly become the requirement, asking the right questions and examining the actual problem makes the process more effective. Here are a few things that help make the process more solution-focussed:
- Clearly defining the output.
- Informing the stakeholders of what to expect from each process.
- Reaching a consensus of when to expect each segment to be ready.
Putting Unnecessary Time Constraints On The Process
In a rush to see a tangible output, sometimes teams begin without clearly devising a prospective solution. Since not completing the requirement gathering process results in a weak foundation, it is important to understand that different people want different things from the process.
- Business heads need requirements as a way of asking for a solution to a business problem.
- Developers use the requirements to guide the software development.
- Managers want the requirements to set limits, estimate the cost, time and other resources needed.
Leaving Out Requirements Assuming They Are Obvious
The most common assumption we make is that everyone in the team knows and understands important facts related to the business and solution required. This creates a gap between what is told and what is understood. It is essential that everything is discussed and analysed during requirement gathering. And the best way to achieve this is by successfully managing the team composition.
Having a technical architect, a business analyst and a domain expert right at the requirement gathering stage helps in not just understanding the business requirement, but also to filter, prioritize and set right expectations in terms of deliverables and time estimates.
Lack Of Prioritisation
With tight deadlines and without a structure of precedence, everything is developed simultaneously and this leads to disorder. If the requirement gathering process defines what is crucial, what is desired and what is supplementary—in a three-tier process—it is possible to create a development process that gives priorities their due based on launch timelines.
Missing The Big Picture
When developers and engineers focus only on stated functional requirements, they are bound to lose track of the big picture. For these experts to deliver intelligent output, it is best if requirement gathering focusses on the solution rather than a task list. This may be achieved by bridging the language barrier between technical jargon and corporate lingo. By starting the discussion on the business case like a story peppered with the right questions, a clear picture is sure to emerge.
Insufficient Analysis Of Change Impact
It is but natural for team members to identify changes during the development and deployment process. However, one minor change can cause an unintended domino effect. Carefully thinking of the change implications and setting up well-documented change architecture in place is imperative to avoid multiple system components from being affected.
These suggested practices are sure to strengthen the requirement gathering process, tackling commonly experienced concerns of delayed timelines and wastage of business resources. However, it is important to remember that requirement gathering is more than creating a document that outlines systems requirements. Since it is the basis of a strong foundation, requirement gathering should ultimately answer questions related to the functional, data, user and usability requirements of the software solution.
About The Author
[The author of this post is Prasad Khadkikar – Lead, Technology Projects, HDFC RED]