Planning your Project's Success with Requirements -- Avantia Inc.

It’s finally here – Vacation!  Your time off has been approved, you’ve saved up, the bags are packed and you are ready to go. You walk out the front door, luggage in hand and you are on your way!  But where exactly are you going?  You have no map, no plan and no true destination in mind other than just a week of fun in the sun. If you wouldn’t leave for a vacation you’ve looked forward to without planning the details, then why start a project without doing the same?

Often times project stakeholders may know what they want out of a project in a general sense and the date they want it done, but not know how to go about making it happen.  Figuring it out along the way is risky and can result in budget overruns, misappropriated resources and unforeseen delays in your schedule.  Starting your project off on the wrong foot may put you on an undesired path from which your project may never recover.

Planning for your project by defining detailed requirements is time well spent, serves as the blueprint for its success, and will benefit your project in every phase. During discovery, requirement definition allows your team and stakeholders to lay it all out on the table. You can discuss the must-haves, the nice-to-haves, risks, dependencies, constraints and contingencies.  Without exploring all of these options, how will you know if what you are building is the right solution for your needs?

Once you’ve documented your requirements, these provide the basis for your Project Manager to define work tasks to be completed and start to compile the project plan and estimates.  Often times it’s during this phase where you can see if the ideal date you want to launch is realistic.  This lets you adjust your workloads and deliverables to either meet the date, or adjust so you can deliver all that is required before launch.

Having this insight before starting development in earnest helps prioritize work and gives the entire team a clear-cut goal to work towards. Arbitrarily picking a date to launch without going through this phase can leave project resources confused on the scope of deliverables and often times leaves stakeholders unsatisfied with what is delivered.  

During the build phase, tracing your work tasks back to the project requirements will help developers be able to ensure their solutions meet all the required functionality as they code and unit test. When developers can see, detect and resolve potential issues during this phase, your project is less likely to suffer through unnecessarily large defect resolution cycles further down in the project lifecycle. This adds value through conservation of budget, time and resources and helps make your development and QA cycles more efficient overall.

In the QA Phase, the detailed requirements serve as the basis of test script development and execution to ensure the solution is meeting the needs of the project. This also gives QA resources clarity on what to expect which leads to more concise interactions with development resources in the event a defect needs to be logged. Stakeholder reviews during this phase can often get ahead of any misconceptions and UX needs that may arise during Dev/QA cycles.  This ensures there are no surprises once they evaluate in full during their User Acceptance Testing period prior to launch.  When all is said and done, you should be able to look at your finished product and trace back its features and functionality to a requirement that was defined during the discovery phase of your project as a way to ensure all of your project deliverables have been met.

Do all projects execute flawlessly in this manner? I’d love to say they do, but the reality is that each project presents it’s own unique challenges and hurdles. Some of these are only discovered as you work the defined tasks and start to peel back the layers while coding and integrating features into a comprehensive solution.

For this reason, it’s also important to have a well-defined change management process as part of your project team’s SDM.  When used in tandem, your detailed requirements and your process will give you the greatest chance of success. But, without those detailed requirements, where is your project really heading?  And how will know if it’s a success? Like your poorly planned vacation, without detailed requirements your final destination might not be the one you had in mind and cost you a lot more to get there in the process.