Wouldn’t it would be nice to start every project with a set of clear marching orders or a laundry list of what’s needed? Of course, it would be!
Well, in traditional project management speak, that concept is often referred to as requirements.
With TeamGantt’s project management requirements template, you can save time and effort on your requirements documentation. Download the free Google Sheets project requirements template to get started!
What are project requirements?
Project requirements are defined as the features, functions, or tasks that must be completed in order to successfully wrap up a project. Requirements provide a crystal clear picture of the work that needs to be done so you can plan your project appropriately to ensure the goals are met and your stakeholders are happy with the final output of your project.
But here’s the thing: We don’t all start with clear marching orders, especially if you’re up against changing business goals or are trying to push boundaries or innovate.
Have you ever started a project with a vague sense for what will be built, but not a detailed view of what needs to be done? It happens to all of us. That means you have to work harder to get the info you need to build the right product the first time around. You almost have to get into the heads of your stakeholders to figure out what they want.
While it may not be easy, you can get there with a solid project requirements gathering and tracking process.
Collecting project requirements
The first thing you’ll want to do before you even think about planning or building anything is gain a solid understanding of your project, its goals, your stakeholders, and their business. Sounds like a lot to uncover, but it’ll be well worth everyone’s time to align and set expectations on what you’re making together.
Do prepwork to get solid requirements
The best way to understand what your stakeholders actually want is to be open about what you don’t know or understand and ask the right questions to ensure you come away with that info.
It sounds simple—and it is—but it does take some prepwork to get the responses you truly need. That means you can’t necessarily take a cookie-cutter approach to every project. Sure, you may have some core questions to use, but before you dump a set of questions on your stakeholders, be sure you understand what you’re asking and why.
It may be helpful to ask yourself these questions before jumping into a requirements-gathering conversation with project stakeholders:
- What requirements information already exists in the statement of work (SOW), project brief, or supporting documentation?
- What kind of information am I looking for?
- How will this information help the project and my team?
- Is there any question about what can be done within the scope of this project?
- Where is there confusion?
- Do I understand my client’s business and how our project goals map to it?
- Will these requirements help me set the proper expectations?
- Am I about to ask the right people these questions?
Identify business goals and requirements with project stakeholders
Now that you’ve done your own groundwork, it’s time to talk to your stakeholders. Don’t worry about getting too in the weeds at first. Set up a simple conversation (or possibly a series of conversations) to gather the high-level business requirements right away, and your detailed functionality requirements will follow.
When you’re in your asking-and-gathering mode, remember, not all stakeholders think like you do in terms of features, functionality, and time to build. In fact, it could be a big black box for them.
This is your chance to connect their business goals and requirements to your project and to educate them about how you work and why you’re doing these things. That builds trust—something that will help you to get through even the most difficult, complex projects. 💪
Defining and documenting project requirements
As you have conversations, you’ll dig deeper on what’s needed to make the project a success. And eventually, the answers to your questions will turn into expected interactions, features, or functionalities that will help you begin your requirements documentation.
Create a shared project requirements document
Set yourself up for future iterations of your project requirements documentation by formatting these responses in a readable, shareable format. This will set the expectation of what goals the project will meet and how what you deliver will map back to those goals.
The best way to document these requirements is in a spreadsheet or list that works for your team. You can get a head start by downloading our free Google Sheets project management requirements document template.
Here’s a quick list of the project requirement essentials you MUST document:
- Requirement name and number: A unique name that describes what’s being discussed and can be easily referred to. You’ll want to number these in case you have a long list of requirements. That way you can easily find them in your document.
- Requirement description: A simple statement that defines the business need the requirements fulfills
- Category: A group identifier for similar requirements that all project resources will understand. This could be the section in your sitemap, a technology, etc.
- Notes: A place to capture questions (yours or the client’s) that surface as a requirement evolves
Ask questions that help you capture the details
As soon as you’ve documented the high-level business requirements, you’re ready to compile the questions you need to ask to uncover the true details.
Start with a top-level question about functionality, and use the response to dig deeper. Here’s an example question with follow-up questions that could arise, specifically on a web project:
- Will your blog require a comments section where users can respond with comments and questions?
- Will that require users to have a login to comment?
- If yes, is there functionality in place to make that happen?
- What data is collected and where?
- How is password management handled?
- Will you require comment acceptance and moderation, or will comments appear immediately?
- Can users post images, videos, or gifs? Or just plain text?
As you can see, several questions could come out of one single response, and each response could add requirements to your work. That means one simple “yes” or “no” answer could have a cost attached to it. Therefore, this exercise is quite important in understanding what your team can do within your scope.
As soon as you’ve determined all answers related to a piece of functionality, add them to your project requirements document. An example coming from the line of questioning above may look like this:
The importance of documenting project requirements
It’s important to remember your project requirements may evolve. For example, let’s say you gather requirements for a website project before anything is designed. During design, your team might come up with some new ideas or features that either add to or build on your current requirements. And that’s okay—as long as you’re sharing these new requirements with your team and having an open conversation about how they might impact your budget and/or timeline.
Think of your documented requirements as the ultimate tool in setting project expectations. That’s because there may come a point when you’ve added too much to the list and need to prioritize features. If you’ve got everything listed in a spreadsheet, you should be able to rate each item in terms of effort and decide what’s in and what’s out.
And when it’s time to launch your project, this requirements document can serve as your final checklist to make sure you’ve delivered as promised. Sounds pretty great, huh? 🎉
Learn how to gain stakeholder buy-in and track and manage project requirements by checking out Class 04 - Documenting Project Requirements in our free on-demand video course The Art & Science of Leading Projects.
Make the project requirements process your own
The process outlined here is a fairly standard approach to defining and documenting requirements for projects of all sizes. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way of doing it—or that you have to do it at all!
If you’re looking for a way to implement a project requirements collection process, start here and explore ways to engage your team and stakeholders to help you nail down what’s needed on any type of project.
From there, you can look into other methods and tools to help you through the project requirement and documentation process. Just remember: Details are your friend, and they like to hide.
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And it all comes with a simple and intuitive interface that’s easy for anyone to use.