Using Software Utilities to Collect Project Requirements

Before you start planning for a project, it is important for you to finalize the scope of the project. However, you cannot finalize the scope of the project unless and until you know the requirements of the project, which you need to collect from all the stakeholders of the project. Requirements are defined as the outcome or capabilities that the stakeholders want see in the product to be developed in the project. In addition to the outcome or capabilities of the product, the requirement might even state other expectations, such as the quality standards of the product. Therefore, when collecting requirements from the stakeholders, you not only need to collect the product requirements but also the overall expectations of the stakeholders from the project.

The project charter that you receive from the Project Management Office already contains the high level requirements from the stakeholders. Therefore, the aim of collecting requirements at this stage is to get elaborated and specific requirements from the stakeholders. Collecting such information is very critical for the project because if you miss even seemingly small requirement, it can be capable of changing the entire course of the project and raising conflict throughout the course of the project, which ultimately might result in the complete failure of the project.

One of the methods to collect requirements from the stakeholders is by using various software utilities, wherein; you need to use certain software applications or tools to collect the requirements from the stakeholders. You can use any of the following software utilities and techniques to collect the detailed requirements from the stakeholders:

  • Mind Maps:Mind map is a graphic utility that you can use to understand the requirements, and arrive at the scope of the project. Even though you can manually create mind maps for the project requirements by using pen and paper, there are many automated utilities available in the market that you can use to create mind map for the project. Mind map is a graphic representation of the flow of ideas or requirements for the project. It is a diagram that you use to visually organize information. You generally create a mind map that joins various information and requirements on a project and shows the relationship among the different requirements. To start with, you create an image or just a simple box depicting the project. Now, you start with a branch that depicts an idea for the project and keep branching it by adding further ideas or requirements till it reaches the minute level of information on requirements for the main idea or requirement. Similarly, you repeat the process of depicting other major ideas on the mind map. You must connect all major ideas or requirements directly to the image representing the project. After you have completed the mind map for the project, you can read each branch like a story when explaining the requirements for the project.
  • Delphi Technique: Delphi technique is a method that you can use to estimate the probability and outcome of the future events. It is a quantitative technique you use to arrive at a consensus. In this technique, as a facilitator, you seek information from a group of experts who participate anonymously. After you receive responses from them, you compile the same and send the results back to the group for review. You iterate the process until you arrive at a consensus.
  • Questionnaires and Surveys: Questionnaires and surveys are the methods you can use for a large group of stakeholders. When preparing a questionnaire, you create a series of questions and prompts relevant to the project, and provide sufficient space for response. After conducting surveys with the stakeholders using the questionnaire, you collate the information and arrive at the requirements for the project. You can use various online as well as offline survey utilities to collect requirements from the stakeholders.
  • Prototypes: Prototype is yet another effective method of collecting requirements from the stakeholders. You create a functional or non functional prototype according to the initial requirements you could gather and understand. You demonstrate this prototype to the stakeholders and, at times, let them play around with it, and seek feedback from them. Base on the feedback from the stakeholders, you might need to update the prototype for a few iterations until the stakeholder requirements are finalized.
  • Observations: Observations is a method in which you might need to use the job shadowing technique, where you must observe the potential user of the product working with the existing system that includes the manual system if it is still not automated. At times, this method might also require you to participate in the work to understand and identify the requirements.
  • Affinity Diagrams: Affinity diagrams are considers as on of the seven effective tools for management and planning. Affinity diagram is yet another graphical utility that you use after you have gathered requirements by using other methods discussed earlier. Here, you get all the requirements sorted and bucketed into groups based on the similarities. You assign title to each bucket or group of requirements for its identification. The sorting and bucketing the requirements makes it easier for you to identify the set of requirements as well as additional scope, which might have gone unnoticed earlier. This method also helps in identifying some of the risks associated to the project.

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