Harnessing the value of your technology investment through requirements gathering

23 August 2018

Reading time 5 minutes

When companies invest in developing their technology infrastructure and software solutions it is very often a combination of a strategic and operational response to address a specific challenge, issue or cautionary move to mitigate risk.

In recent years there has been an increased adoption of Software-as-a-Service based enterprise applications, mobile applications and the development of IT operations management tools (ITOM) that are also delivered from the cloud. Taking a total operational approach to technology infrastructure and software development it has enabled traditional companies to transform how they operate as well as unlock in some case previously untapped value in data, business analytics and business intelligence.

The realisation of “doing more with less” in terms of IT spending and staffing is measured as a success ultimately if it adds tangible value to the overall business. Therefore, value has to be initially harnessed at the requirements gathering stage to ensure that what is actually required is delivered, at the right cost and user accepted rather than delivering an overly expensive solution that no one likes or will use.

The requirements gathering stage is not undertaken in isolation and is often managed by a Project Manager, Product Manager or Business Analyst tasked with building a collective wisdom. They will co-ordinate an assembled project team or work with the Client’s project sponsor who will ensure the necessary personnel can contribute their skills, knowledge and capabilities in defining the requirements.

Jeff Bezos (CEO & Chairman of Amazon) recently referred to the benefit of “two-pizza teams,” i.e., having teams no bigger than can be fed by two pizzas brings the natural entrepreneurial agility and management of specialised small teams with a significance of not wasting resources and expeditious results.

Defining requirements

The key tool used in the requirements gathering stage is the PRD or the Product Requirements Document. This document often defines the high-level requirements of a software solution before it is prototyped, designed or developed. The PRD is a deliverable of the requirements gathering phase of a project and represents a mutually agreed statement of the software’s purpose, feature set, functionalities and behaviour. The PRD is completed according to the principles of an AGILE methodology developed in 2001 as a response to reducing costs, time-to-market and disappointment in the late delivering software. The AGILE methodology calls for validated learnings over opinions and conventions; customer focussed collaborations over silo’s and for the process of customer discovery to outweigh static prediction. The creation of the PRD is an iterative process where the collaboration of ideas, data and analytics are both combined and refined. Theories and assumptions are challenged by “issue triage”, “backlog grooming” or “User Story Mapping” to bring clarity and focus to the project.

The PRD is organised into a number of sections that define the project. These include:

  • Who is involved?
  • What’s the current status of the project?
  • What’s the target view of the project?
  • Have any timelines or milestones been established including a target release date?
  • OR have any risks been identified?

Additionally, the PRD will outline the business objectives and validate why this project is being undertaken. Once the project is scoped the PRD will explore user interaction and design for each type of user often supported with wireframes illustrating the requirements of UX & UI solution at the design stage whether it is a website, mobile app or dashboard interface.

A completed requirements gathering stage and PRD should be regarded as a “compass” providing direction and a shared understanding between all the stakeholders involved in a project at a Team, Department and Executive level. Ultimately, the PRD provides the blueprint by which the commercial and technical resources in a business can align their efforts before additional expenditure in design and development.

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