This article provides a practical explanation of a Business Requirements Analysis. After reading, you’ll understand the basics of this powerful project management tool.
What is a Business Requirements Analysis?
Business requirement analysis is a process in which the expectations and requirements of the users and stakeholders of a project or task are defined. The analysis of business needs is a comprehensive statement of what the outcome of a project or task should be. This document contains a step-by-step procedure to record all requirements related to a project or task. Good requirements are defined in such a way that they can be documented and are useful and measurable.
Projects need full consensus about what all stakeholders want and do not want to achieve with it. It’s important this is done during the initial phase, or the analysis phase. This is followed by steps from traditional project management methods, such as Six Sigma.
In general, the Business Requirements Analysis consist of three activities. The first is identifying the requirements of the various stakeholders. Next is the analysis of the requirements. During that stage, they analyse whether the requirements are unambiguous, complete, and consistent. The final step is tracking and monitoring the requirements. That part of the process goes on for as long as the project does.
What are Business Requirements?
Business requirements, also known as stakeholder requirements specifications (StRS), describe the requirements for a proposed project or system from the perspective of the stakeholders. These are requirements for products, systems, software, and other processes that must meet certain business requirements. StRS are often used in project management and in software development.
The stakeholder requirement specifications (StRS) are established in a business requirements document, or BRD. The emphasis in this document is on the meticulous planning and developing of business requirements.
Examples of business requirements are:
- Operational resources
- Performance parameters
- Environmental factors
Other categories of business requirements include:
- Architectural requirements
- Structural requirements
- Performance requirements
- Design requirements
Functional and non-functional requirements
In software development and systems engineering, functional requirements are different functions of a system or component. Functional requirements include calculations, technical details, processing, and other specific functionalities.
Non-functional requirements are generally quality requirements. Quality requirements can impose limitations to a design or implementation, for instance related to reliability or security.
The plan for functional requirements is recorded in the system design. The quality requirements are generally included in the system architecture plan.
There are a number of proven methods for collecting information for the Business Requirements Analysis. Some of the most effective methods are explained below.
In relatively little time, brainstorming can generate a lot of ideas on a certain topic. Try to have as many people from different disciplines as possible, but avoid groups larger than fifteen people to maintain focus. Use whiteboards or drawings to get ideas flowing.
Interviewing people who are involved in a certain project is a very effective way of obtaining information that might not always be shared in a group setting. It’s important that the right people with the right knowledge are interviewed. Ask the questions in an open format, so that respondents give complete answers.
If it’s about the development of a new product or service, you can build a prototype. This makes it easier to visualise what the eventual design will look like. Prototypes often bring issues to light that have to be resolved before introducing the final design.
Business Requirements Analysis step-by-step plan
Identifying business requirements might sound simple, but a thorough analysis includes at least the following four steps:
1. Identify stakeholders
Learn everything about the stakeholders of the project, such as sponsors, end users, and others. It’s essential to identify sponsors or investors who have decision-making power. Their ideas and needs will strongly influence the process.
2. Identify all requirements
Requirements are either known or unknown. Identify as many of them as you can. Collecting the needs is not easy; it requires a critical approach. It might seem simple to collect information from users and document it. However, recording accurate and organised information is a challenge. Information about needs and requirements is exchanged in different ways, such as through email, interviews, phone calls, meetings, etc. Interpreting, documenting, and processing this information is quite time consuming.
There are also other techniques and requirements to be identified, such as flow charts, competition analyses, and user cases.
3. Classify company requirements
During this step of the business requirements analysis, requirements are organised, documented, and refined. The product of this step-by-step plan is considered to be a contract for the project or task to be carried out, concluded between the principal and the agent.
When developing software, the key is to document all functionality requirements of the end user in a very detailed way. Developers have to be able to grasp these requirements to be able to develop the new solution.
4. Analyse business requirements
Identify the highest priorities and determine which requirements are feasible, and which aren’t. If problems arise with two requirements because of conflicts of interests or something else, those will have to be resolved. Try to predict the impact of the proposed changes as accurately as possible. The final list must be clear, succinct, logical, feasible, and relevant to the project.
5. Document & monitor
Now that the business requirements are fully known, it’s time to develop a rulebook. This document contains all information about stakeholders and their requirements, what they want to achieve, etc. It’s also important that stakeholders are kept informed of project developments during the project.
Pitfalls in Business Requirements Analysis
The road to a structured file with all requirements of a project is often not a straight line. There are different stakeholders with different requirements that must be taken into account, and there are many potential complications, such as technological developments or financial problems.
Below we’ll discuss the most common pitfalls in the business requirement analysis process.
Lack of stakeholders
The stakeholders aren’t just the obvious end users of a solution or project. Other stakeholders are operational teams, suppliers, developers, or sponsors. If stakeholders and their requirements have not been included in the requirement plan prior to the start of the project, this can lead to delays or worse during later stages.
Different stakeholder perspectives can conflict. Although unavoidable, such conflicts can lead to project delays if not acted upon quickly. It’s therefore important that the signals of different perspectives are recognised and discussed. If it turns out conflict is unavoidable, read more about conflict resolution in the work of Mary Parker Follett.
Vague business requirements
It can be a challenge to ask stakeholders the right questions and get the right answers. Project teams can find it difficult to determine the questions that will yield useful answers. As a result, they end up with a vague list of not very concrete requirements.
Business Requirements Analysis summary
The Business Requirements Analysis is the process in project management in which all stakeholder requirements are defined. It’s important that all stakeholders agree, and that the project leads to everyone getting what has been planned.
Business requirements describe the requirements of a suggested project or system from the perspective of the stakeholders. These requirements are generally recorded in the Business Requirements Document (BRD). There are various requirements, including client requirements, system design requirements, performance requirements, and safety requirements.
Now It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Do you recognise this explanation of Business Requirements Analysis? Have you ever done a requirement analysis like this for a project? Which other tools for project management do you know? Do you have any tips or additional comments?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Abai, N. H. Z., Yahaya, J. H., & Deraman, A. (2013). User requirement analysis in data warehouse design: a review. Procedia Technology, 11, 801-806.
- Hay, D. C. (2003). Requirements analysis: from business views to architecture. Prentice Hall Professional.
- Herrmann, P., & Herrmann, G. (2006). Security requirement analysis of business processes. Electronic Commerce Research, 6(3-4), 305-335.
- Mazón, J. N., Trujillo, J., Serrano, M., & Piattini, M. (2005). Designing data warehouses: from business requirement analysis to multidimensional modeling. REBNITA, 5, 44-53.
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