Understanding & Developing Project Requirements

Requirements –> Strategy –> Plan –> Execute –> Evaluate

These are the five keys for successful project execution. Understanding requirements is probably the most important key because if requirements are not understood correctly right from the beginning, the entire project can lead to a solution way off target. Apart from wasted time, resource, and money, this leads to a dissatisfied and frustrated customer.

The most common trap in understanding requirements is to stay with what we already know, what we have experienced in the past, and look for the most easily apparent solution, rather than the problem which the customer is experiencing. In this case it seems we would be looking for a lock when we already have a key, or simply putting the cart before the horse.

Understanding requirements from the customer’s point of view requires empathizing with the customer, their situation, their needs and wants, their challenges and their aspirations for success. Reading and re-reading their problem statement is something we need to do often, even after we have started developing the solution strategy. Staying with the problem and thinking about it long enough is key.

As we begin developing the requirements, the simplest proof of whether we have understood the problem correctly is to paraphrase it and see if the customer still resonates with our description of it. We progressively detail the problem articulation and successively involve the customer in responding to potential solution strategies with their pros and cons. If the resonance sustains through the design stage, we have the problem(s) identified and isolated.

Re-statement of the problem and getting concurrence from the customer on what it is, as well as what it is not, gives us the clear starting point from where we can start strategizing on the possible solution sets, and paths to them.

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