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Business Requirements: Documenting the Business Side of Projects
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

While many business projects are IT-related, more and more are being initiated and funded by lines of business, from marketing to finance and beyond. If you’ve ever dealt with new or conflicting requirements midway through a project—or even after the project was finished (or so you thought)—then you’ll quickly see the value of a good business requirements document. It’s your best ally and tool for making sure the project that’s ultimately delivered is what the business really needs.

Business Requirements Align Projects With Business Needs

Let’s say you’ve been tasked with a finance-related project. The sponsor will be a finance leader, but there’s a good likelihood that the project will be managed by someone outside of finance.

The project manager and his or her associated organization will typically follow formal project management practices and develop a project charter and project plan. That’s all well and good, but that documentation is geared for project management.

Business requirements, on the other hand, are exclusively for the business side. Through a focused business requirements document, you’ll be able to identify and outline what the business needs are and make sure the scope of the project is perfectly positioned to achieve the business purpose.

A high-level document that precedes any project-related documentation, the business requirements document sets the context for the stakeholder requirements and the solution requirements. Done right, it will get everyone off on the same foot from the get-go so there are no surprises or missed targets down the road.

A Business Requirements Document Template

IIBA’s BABOK notes that business requirements can apply to the whole of an enterprise, a single business area or a specific initiative. Regardless of what the business project is, the question is, what does a good business requirements document look like?

The most efficient approach is to have a business requirements document template that you can use each time a project is considered. This way you won’t overlook any key areas. But there’s no need to over-engineer the process.

An effective business requirements template includes:

  • Goals: The goals set the direction for the project. They should be achievable and reflect the overall desires of the project—what the business wants to accomplish at a high level.
  • Objectives: These are the markers that help you identify what you’re trying to achieve in the end. Bringing detail to your goals, objectives should be specific, measurable, single-sentence statements.

  • Outcomes: Outcomes aren’t the solution but the benefits of the solution. They explain why the change has been initiated and how you know the objectives have been met.

Having this context first allows you to better understand the specific solution requirements and stakeholder requirements. Once business requirements are established, these other requirements can follow.

With more projects initiating from the lines of business, more people on the business side are stepping up to take on this responsibility. Make sure you have the right tools and processes in place to match the project scope to the business needs, and you’ll avoid misunderstandings, delays and confusion in the long-term.

Ben Snyder is the CEO of Systemation, (www.systemation.com), a project management, business analysis, and agile development training and consulting company that has been training professionals since 1959. Systemation is a results-driven training and consulting company that maximizes the project-related performance of individuals and organizations. Known for instilling highly practical, immediately usable processes and techniques, Systemation has proven to be an innovative agent of business transformation for many government entities and Fortune 2000 companies, including Verizon Wireless, Barclays Bank, Mattel, The Travelers Companies, Bridgestone, Amgen, Wellpoint and Whirlpool.

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