February 28th, 2019 by inflectra
The blog is produced in conjunction with Journey Into Agile With Inflectra - A Free Webinar Course.
The corporate business practices have evolved significantly. The products we develop are getting more complex and sophisticated. No longer are the software always having a graphical user interface for users, as wearable technologies and surgical implants transmitting updates to a mobile app are becoming commonplace. These emerging products, applications, and services will require identifying, gathering, and grooming requirements critical aspects of project management and product development.
According to the Pulse of Profession 2018 Report by Project Management Institute that surveyed organizations globally on their projects, the number of projects that are increasing in complexity has gone up from 35% in 2013 to 41% in 2018. While complexity is increasing, there is another disappointing story that is developing in parallel. The survey results synthesized by the Project Management Institute and reported in the Practice Standard for Requirements Management indicate that 53% of the organizations lack a formal process to validate requirements in an unbiased manner. Combined with the 49% lack of resources to perform an integrated requirements management, significant challenges arise! Now, if we think this is because of the growth of agile practices that focus on incremental iterative delivery, then that assumption is challenged by the statistic that only 33% of decision-makers think requirements management is even a critical competency for strategic success!
So, there is an important challenge ahead of all of us in defining and managing requirements from inception to closure. Contrary to thinking of the requirements as specifications for a product or scope of work for a project, let us think of requirements broadly! PMI comes to our rescue in establishing this definition as, “When properly implemented and supported, the critical competency of developing and managing requirements enables the organization to meet stakeholder expectations, improve project performance, meet organizational benefits, and achieve tangible business outcomes.”
Dissecting PMI’s definition of requirements, we can see the emphasis around managing stakeholder expectations, performance, benefits, and outcomes in value generation. When we don’t see the big picture of the value of the capabilities that we develop to address the strategic requirements, then, we are not managing the requirements. In addition to the increasing pressure from customers and end-users to define products and services of superior quality, the competitive pressure to get more functionality to the market faster, better, and cheaper with the types of products and services with an increased level of sophistication in these products and services presents opportunities.
For instance, there would be a surge in the modeling of the user base establishing sampling approaches to prove our hypothesis in developing prototypes or the monitoring the quality of work produced in operations for operational excellence. Additionally, organizations are increasingly facing more standards globally. For example, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) controlled several types of telemarketing calls. Prescription Drug and Marketing Act controlled the safe and effective use of drugs. We have seen Sarbanes-Oxley act in the financial industry for internal controls and disclosure controls. Similarly, we have seen HIPAA influence the healthcare sector. Recently, California Consumer Protection Act and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation that have put additional emphasis on specific roles, responsibilities, and controls.
More organizations will, therefore, continue to invest in tools that allow integrated requirements management solutions, such as the application lifecycle management solutions. We covered in our first webinar about the STAGE approach to evaluating an integrated application lifecycle management solution covering “Services”, “Traceability”, “Auditability”, “Governance”, and “Engineering”. As a result, the best tools and platforms will be value driven and not just feature driven.
As you can see, requirements management must start from the strategic value and organizational benefit. Whether you are responsible for the project, program, portfolio, or product management, starting with the “why” behind the strategic value and benefits framework is very much needed. The field of systems thinking truly helps here. Some of the foundational systems thinking questions that you can combine with the “Five-Why” approach is listed here. Getting the answers to these questions from your own research or from stakeholders will ensure that you have good requirements, to begin with.
So, depending upon the scope of our initiative, short-term or long-term, project, program, or portfolio level work, the type of requirements evolves continuously from high-level to low-level. Therefore, the requirements have a lifecycle. The practice standard for requirements management also emphasizes this by coming up with six stages. These start from the Needs Assessment. Then, we move to the operating structure and governance framework within which the requirements are managed. Then, we move to the process of eliciting requirements through document analysis, interviewing, observations, market research, brainstorming, focus studies, and so on.
As we gather the requirements, we analyze them for the value they would add. A simple measure to evaluate is the return on investment – In other words, does the time and money invested in addressing that requirement add value? Then, we monitor the changes to the requirement through the voice of the customer and voice of business as we iterate through the changes and evaluate the solution delivered as the product moves through its lifecycle.
Using the concepts of systems thinking and understanding the lifecycle stages of requirements, we really can start the race ahead with clearly identifying the value-added requirements. As the saying goes, a problem well-defined is a problem half-solved! This requires one to be strategic about gathering requirements that add value. As we explore these stages, I created my own approach to soliciting, managing, and evaluating requirements better. These five stages involved the stated need, perceived need, actual need, cultural need, and exploited need.
How can this SPACE framework support value stream mapping and competitive analysis enabling the type of requirements to gather, manage, and evaluate? Check out the webinar archive to learn more.
For more information on these areas, please review the webinar recording on youtube.
Dr. Sriram Rajagopalan is a project management guru with extensive software development and project management experience in many industries. Dr. Rajagopalan lead Inflectra's agile project management training course: Journey Into Agile With Inflectra - A Free Webinar Course