Let’s say your team is working on a new onboarding feature that might involve members outside the product team, including growth and customer success. There are a lot of information and insights you will need to gather — from various stakeholders.
As a project manager working with a cross-functional team, how do you make sure that everyone has a common understanding of the requirements? How do you ensure that the final deliverables will fully align with what the users need?
This is when requirements management comes into play.
In this article, we will go over what requirements management is, why it’s important, and the four critical stages of requirements management. We’ll also show you how to effectively manage your project with the help of a requirements management tool.
Let’s dive in.
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What is a requirement?
A requirement is a condition a product or a feature must meet to be considered useful and ready to launch. Software products can have countless requirements – even a single feature can have multiple requirements. You can think of requirements as the components that product teams need to implement for a feature or a product to be complete.
Example of a requirement
Within each project, there are three different types of requirements. These include:
- Business requirements or stakeholder requirements that fulfill the company’s goals
- User requirements that satisfy the customer
- System requirements or technical requirements that meet the industry’s standards, i.e., well-written code, no bugs, and so on
The requirements are divided into types depending on different perspectives—the perspective of a user, a business owner, and an engineer or product developer.
Considering these perspectives, there can be conflicts to resolve. It is up to the project team to gather these requirements and solve any possible conflicts or inconsistencies.
Additionally, requirements should have certain attributes, so they are easier to manage and evaluate. Some of the required attributes that should be applied to all specifications include:
- Requirement identifier that is unique
- Requirement name
- Requirement description
- Requirement version number
- Requirement type
- Requirement change history
- Requirement status
- Requirement priority
- Requirement owner
- Requirement trace information
- Requirement process or activity reference
These characteristics help organize the work within the requirements management team and ensure that what you’re building will benefit both the business and the user.
What is Requirements Management?
Requirements management is the continuous process of identifying, analyzing, and meeting the requirements or needs for a specific feature or product. The goal of requirements management is to ensure the product development team meets the goals set and that the final product is up to the company’s and users’ expectations.
Requirements management also involves sharing changes to requirements throughout the project lifecycle, known as change management.
Typically, the product management department is responsible for the requirements management process, specifically the product manager. They work with the stakeholders, including business teams, customers, users, developers, testers, regulators, and quality assurance, to make sure that the product in the works is what it is supposed to be.
💡 It’s worth noting that the requirements management process doesn’t end with a product launch. Instead, it also involves gathering data about the product’s acceptability and incorporating it into the product planning phases for the next releases and updates.
Properly managing requirements ensures that the product being developed is exactly what the stakeholders want.
Why Is Requirements Management Important?
Requirements management ensures that everyone can clearly understand expectations and successfully deliver a product that the customers love. Usually, there are multiple requirements regarding a specific product. There can even be thousands of specifications just for one product, which makes requirements management even more important.
Here are some reasons you requirements management:
- Clarity of stakeholder needs and expectations
- Understanding of the pain points the product is supposed to address
- Better transparency on the scope, budget, and schedule
- Minimizing costly, time-consuming rework
- Increasing product quality
- Delivering valuable product
💡 Keep in mind that the role of requirements management may seem similar to project management, but they are not. Project management involves overseeing a project to ensure the set goals are achieved within the given constraints. On the other hand, requirements management usually deals with specific product needs or requirements that are usually developed during scrum sprints.
Why Do You Need a Requirements Plan?
Requirements Management Plan (RMP) is a document containing information that helps manage product requirements from definition to traceability and delivery. RMP brings the requirements and all the actions taken to meet them in one place.
The people responsible for creating the requirements plan are typically the team leaders in the application lifecycle management.
The team uses Requirements Management Plan (RMP) throughout the product development lifecycle. It contains information like:
- Stakeholder roles and responsibilities
- Which needs and requirement artifacts will be defined
- How traceability will be completed and managed
- How needs and requirements baseline will be handled
- How interactions (interfaces) with external systems and users will be managed
- How changes will be managed
- How the product will be verified to meet the requirements
- How the product will be validated to meet the needs
A successful requirements management plan sets the course and expectations for all stakeholders throughout the lean software development journey. In the end, the RMP should be visible and have a sign-off from stakeholders.
The Four Stages Of Requirements Management
Requirements management is a complex process that is divided into several steps. Each of these stages is essential for the success of product development. Let’s look at the four requirements management stages in more detail.
1. Planning Stage
The planning stage usually covers everything from initial information gathering of the high-level project to more detailed product requirements that could be collected throughout the software development lifecycle. Key items to define in a requirements management plan are the project overview, requirements gathering process, roles and responsibilities, tools, and traceability.
In the first step of planning, you need to identify the requirements artifacts. These include the data and information concerning requirements and all related information—for example, diagrams, models, use cases, design documents, and testing procedures.
The next step is to assign a specific list of attributes to keep track of the requirements in a given project. The attributes help organize and identify requirements across all the artifacts. The attributes also help manage reporting requirements and the project’s status.
At this point, there should also be a defined requirements baseline, so you can manage changes to that baseline. It’s an overview of a set of approved requirements that are supposed to be included in the product. Now, the stakeholders are informed of the specifications, so they can adjust business processes or decide to change the planned functionality. Requirements baseline speeds up the process from prioritization to stakeholder sign-off.
2. Development Stage
Next is the development stage, which may seem the most straightforward but also has its challenges. The development stage is based on the requirements analysis process.
The first step of requirements development is eliciting or gathering the requirements. At this stage, the requirements management team works with users and internal business stakeholders to identify and collect the requirements in one place.
💡Tips: It’s critical that all of your key stakeholders engage with each other and discuss and debate the “what”, “why”, and the “how” to help drive alignment. Creating a shared understanding about the priority (the why) and the actual scope (the what and the how) can minimize surprises that can potentially derail your projects. At Tara, we bring together all the team leads and the development team into one meeting to make sure nothing gets lost in translation.
Next is the definition of requirements, a process of rewriting them clearly and traceably. It makes communication throughout the product life cycle more effective.
💡 Tips: We recommend documenting everything from the requirements stage, even questions or discussions. Doing so will provide more development visibility, eliminate ambiguity for everyone and help with backlog prioritization, which comes later on. We store all discussion points directly in the requirements inside Tara, keeping everything in one place, so that those details are always easily accessible in the future.
One of the most critical characteristics of requirements is traceability. In the end, only traceability allows you to determine if a design and constructed item meet the required needs.
The last step of requirements development is the analysis. The purpose of requirements analysis is to fully understand stakeholders’ demands so that the delivered product meets their expectations.
3. System Verification Stage
The next stage in managing requirements is verification. Verification tests check that the finished product meets the requirements set in the requirements baseline.
The verification process includes reviewing code and doing walkthroughs and inspections. If the requirements are invalid or missing at this point, you can spot them instantly and prevent the risk of rework and the cost associated with overruns.
In other words, the verification process allows you to do a quick check before getting too deep into the development process.
For successful system verification, you’ll need to define several attributes. First is the success criteria which describes what needs to be proven to determine whether the requirement has been met. Second is the method for testing, demonstration, analysis, or inspection. And third is the strategy or approach to be used, i.e., system configuration, test environment, and operating environment, among others.
4. System Validation Stage
After completing system verification, it’s time to conduct validation testing. This stage checks the accuracy of the requirements and whether requirements have achieved the stakeholder’s objectives. Validation isn’t about where you came from to your destination but whether you’ve hit the mark.
During validation, you ensure the end product meets the stakeholder’s needs. The verification stage should check if the product works according to requirements. It clears up whether the product accomplishes the goals in the eyes of the user. So, even when a product is fully verified, it doesn’t mean it can’t fail validation. But if it passes the system validation stage, the product acceptance follows.
To prepare for the system validation stage, you’ll also need to define the success criteria, method, and strategy before the requirements are baselined. This sets the stage or expectations for the test and quality assurance.
What Are The Difficulties of Requirements Management
One of the most prominent difficulties in requirements management is change management. Because change is so common in the requirements management process, teams need to address how they will manage it at the start of the project to stay on top of the adjustments.
While building products that meet numerous requirements and are subject to constant changes, teams often waste hours managing revisions instead of making progress. In addition, maintaining the needs and requirements in document form can be even more difficult.
One example of problems that often result from change is version control issues. Versioning problems can arise in the artifact itself. For example, someone makes changes on SRS version one instead of SRS version two that already has different, additional changes.
Additionally, there are communication issues that you can come across when consolidating feedback from multiple stakeholders via email or meetings. It can be challenging to analyze the impact of change across various versions of requirements artifacts and simultaneously communicate the correct modifications and statuses to the right people.
Here is a list of other common challenges of requirements management:
- Last-minute feedback
- Decision rehashing
- Attention deficit
- Mismatched expectations
It’s easy to recognize that problems compound when managing requirements using documents. That’s why it’s beneficial to use a suitable requirements management tool. Using a requirement management tool with saving functionality instead of a document to organize work can resolve most of these difficulties.
How to Choose the Right Requirements Management Tool
Requirements management software can be really helpful with tracking, analyzing, and managing requirements change. The top requirements management tools ensure changes can be traced in one specific location. They also allow for strengthened communication between team members. Transparency can prevent duplicate work and enhances agility in the team.
The right requirements management solution can improve cycle times, increase quality, boost risk management, reduce rework, and minimize effort proving compliance. It can also help in risk and test management.
When choosing a requirements management tool, there are several factors you should consider. Make sure that the tool you pick:
- Is easy to operate
- Makes collaboration effortless
- Enhances requirements change management
- Visualizes the requirements management process
- Allows integration with other tools
- Organizes requirements according to your team’s needs
- Sends notifications about important changes made to the requirements
- Assigns the requirements to the team members responsible for them
- Allows you to establish relationships between different requirements
Choosing the best requirements management tools is essential because it impacts product development efficiency and success.
For example, Tara is a requirement management software designed for efficiency. It helps you capture each product iteration in a requirement and manage your requirements across multiple teams, effortlessly.
With Tara, you can write technical specs and define project scope — in one view. Tara’s powerful multi-player editor allows multiple team members to collaborate simultaneously on the same doc. You can easily attach files, images, paste your code, or write in markdown mode.
What’s more, you can also assign tasks to requirements, and requirements to teams, to set a clear plan and organize your workflows. Tara offers integration with Slack, so you can receive instant notifications on new requirements.
Requirements management is essential to ensure that all stakeholders have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, that the right tools are being used, and that everyone is on the same page.
Many challenges may arise during the requirements management process, but using the right tools and strategies can overcome these challenges. When choosing a requirements management tool, remember to take into consideration specific needs and objectives, as well as the size and complexity of your project. Good luck!