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Monday, January 23, 2012

Lesson No. 2: Make Project Sponsors Write Their Own Requirements

Before we begin on this topic, doesn’t the title seem impossible? Do you really think the Project Sponsors (Senior Business Managers and others high up in the corporate food-chain) will spend time writing requirements? If you arent sure, just keep thinking in the background and we will get to it pretty soon before we end this chapter.

In any country, any industry, the key reason for project failure is “Poor Requirements Definition” Though PMI recommends a clear and well defined requirements gathering phase as a mandatory part of any project’s lifecycle, in real life, that is rarely the case. In real life, teams are asked to begin development even before the preliminary or rough specs are signed-off.

The companies that are most at risk are those with poor business analysis capabilities. When specifically reporting on technology projects, such as software development, success is categorized, euphemistically, as "improbable." This result shows how difficult it is to find, identify, and define true requirements for a software project.

The software project manager usually does not have the authority or the time to find, select, and prioritize the project requirements on their own, especially since there may be several interest groups involved in the project that probably have conflicting ideas about what they envision the software will do upon completion.

It's up to the project manager to spend time with those who are funding the software project to help them define exactly what they want before the project starts. Is it more important that it is done quickly, with few bugs, or on as small a budget as possible? You can't have it all. What resources and skill sets are crucial to create the software they want? Are they making these resources available to the team?

Without serious, specific consideration of what is to be created on this project during the requirement definition phase, the success of the project is severely under question. Remember, project owners need to convey what they want this software to do, not how the programmers will go about producing that result.

Go back to the first paragraph of this post and re-read it. If you are someone with that kind of doubt, then you need to read the subsequent two paragraphs as well.

Convince the project owners that they must be involved in the process from start to finish. Solid requirements planning establishes a clear connection between the business case, project goals, and the project outcome. Otherwise, the project cannot produce the satisfactory result they are expecting.

A failed software project hurts the project owners most, since they have put up the money to fund the project and were expecting to use the software to earn back their investment.

So, if you want to be a good manager and a successful one too, try to convince your project sponsors to take part in defining/baselining the project requirements. This will eliminate undue surprises

Previous: Lesson No. 1

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