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Project Management – Collecting Requirements
By Sue Cochran, Northwest University

In my opinion, defining Scope is the most difficult part of planning the project. You would think it would be fairly simple. Your sponsor comes to you with something that needs to be done. He can’t figure it out in the normal process of business so he wants you to do a project. You agree to have a meeting to talk about it.

The day of the meeting arrives and you know you need to Collect Requirements for the project. You are prepared to take notes, expecting to get a list of things so you can begin your Project Charter document or at least an initial proposal. The sponsor begins the meeting with a comment about how excited he is to see this happening, how he has waited a long time to see this happen, how it has been a “dream” of his to accomplish such a project. You ask what finished product he wants to see when the project is finished; he looks at you with a blank stare. The next part of the meeting is a little less exciting and a lot more work. As project manager, you will need to pull out of the management team the details to make a “dream” become reality.

There are several ways to collect the details you need. If you are in a group you can use brainstorming or brainstorming and ranking, which is brainstorming and then grouping the ideas together in order of importance. Other tools available for collecting information are:

  • Delphi method. This is a used with a group of experts. Each person responds to questions anonymously and then a facilitator provides a summary of the answers with reasoning applied. The idea is that after each round the answers will be reduced and after a predefined number of rounds a mean will be applied and a conclusion will be reached.
  • Mind mapping. This is really another form of brainstorming. You start with a word in the middle of the chart or whiteboard. You then brainstorm ideas and connect them to the main idea like branches.

  • Affinity Diagram. Ideas are written on cards and grouped together for analysis.

  • Prototyping. A prototype can be built of the product to give a visual and a possible working model to see if the idea is what the customer wants.

  • Simulation. When building a prototype, you put the model in a working situation to observe and analyze how it works. I like to create a role playing exercise when formulating ideas for a process change project. It can be helpful to walk through the process change and record thoughts, issues and ideas throughout the exercise.

Whatever the method or methods you use to collect information, be sure you are collecting all the requirements of the project. Make a concise, cohesive list. It must be complete; you don’t want a surprise necessary requirement to appear after you have begun the project. Ensure the requirements are not in conflict with other important requirements and are current, feasible, verifiable and mandatory. Be sure you have listed the mandatory requirements that your sponsor is asking for. Depending on the size of the project, it may require several meetings to collect the needed requirements. At the initial requirement gathering meeting, management may feel like you are making it too much work, or dampening the enthusiasm of the group. They will thank you however, when you provide the product they want, on time and under budget.

Northwest University opened to students on October 1, 1934. It is a regionally accredited institution awarding associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degrees.

Note: Implicit permission was given to republish this post, as the article was not copyrighted.

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