Requirements gathering is a sometimes tedious yet necessary workstep for any project. It is the process of identifying and recording a project’s exact requirements from start to finish. This includes both business and technical specifications.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to the topic of requirements gathering and share best practices for collecting and recording these details, so you can plan for the most successful project outcome.
What is Involved in Requirements Gathering?
The art of gathering requirements for a project begins in the discovery phase and is managed throughout the life of the project by the project manager. However, once requirements are defined, they can change, and priorities can shift. This is why you want to document the details in versions as ongoing requirements management.
Requirements gathering is a step that is often overlooked or purposely skipped, simply because it is not fully understood or can seem complicated or irrelevant. Similar to applying sunblock before heading out for a day in the sun, it is better to choose not to skip this critical step in a project, as there will most likely be negative consequences.
Focus on answering the following questions as you begin requirements gathering:
- How long is the project timeline?
- Who needs to be involved in the project?
- What risks may be faced in the project?
- What are the technical and business requirements?
Requirements gathering doesn’t have to be complicated. You can follow a quick and easy process that will get you to a comprehensive document detailing the resources you need to get from project start to end. This exercise involves identifying and understanding roles, documenting what is needed, and obtaining the approvals needed to put it all in motion.
Steps of the Requirements Gathering Process
1. Assign roles
Begin by identifying all project stakeholders. This is anyone involved with the project including internal people such as designers and testers, project managers, and clients.
2. Interview stakeholders and users
Meet with the project stakeholders and potential users to understand what they want to get out of the project. Make note of the goals, changes, and risks they mention. These are the people you are developing the end product for, so ask them a lot of questions.
3. Gather and document
As the stakeholders begin to provide answers to your questions, write everything down. You can use a project management tool of your choice to record this information or keep it simple and create a document using a template. Prioritize the “asks,” so you don’t end up with a laundry list wishlist.
4. List all assumptions and requirements
Use the information you collect to start setting requirements goals, project schedule and milestones, people and roles, and risks. Get as detailed as you can to end up with a set of project requirements that are actionable, measurable, and quantifiable.
5. Get approval
Formal requirements will need approval from all stakeholders. Confirm project limits are known and requirements meet users’ needs. From here you implement the plan.
6. Monitor progress
Use project management tools to track every detail of the project from kick off to product delivery.
Requirements Gathering Templates
However you decide to gather requirements, you will wind up with a formal document. As is the case with many project management processes, this one does not need to be created from scratch. There are requirements gathering templates you can use as a guide to get you off to a solid start, asking the right questions, and covering all of the bases.
Information to include for better workflow
The information included in a good requirements gathering template should at least include:
- Purpose: Defining who the project is for and why you are building it
- Features and Functions: Detailing exactly what you are building
- Release and Acceptance Criteria: Describing the minimum and exact requirements to be accepted by all stakeholders
- Timeline: Outlining the phases and date goals for the final release
In addition to these items, a template will also include sections for project description, category, priority, complexity, and verification.
Recommended tools and software
There are many tools available to help simplify and organize the process of requirements gathering. The solution may be a simple file-sharing system where all documents can be accessed from anywhere, by anyone invited, from a cloud-based server. Use one of these top tools to create, author, and update your project’s official requirements document.
Basic tools anyone can use:
- Google Docs
- Adobe Acrobat
More robust tools for technical project managers and developers:
- Modern Requirements: Author requirements using any approach with this tool built within Azure DevOps — recommended for projects in healthcare, banking, government, and product engineering.
- Jama software: Centralize and optimize requirements planning using Jama Connect — great for projects in the medical devices, automotive, aerospace, and defense industries.
- Visure: Custom manage requirements using a single source of truth and traceability — supports work in aerospace, medical devices, automotive, banking, and pharma.
- SpiraTeam: Flexible and adaptable tool to handle your needs now and in the future — perfect for work in energy and industrial, financial, healthcare, and government.
- Xebrio: Define and track the evolving needs of all stakeholders through constant collaboration — ideal for manufacturing and engineering professionals.
Requirements Gathering Template Formats
A quick search of common free templates to use to kick-start your requirements gathering effort highlight the following, free and downloadable in a variety of formats:
Simple project requirements template
Use this type of template to document high-level requirements and keep the project on track. A simple template can be found in Word, Excel, Google Doc, and PDF formats.
Software project requirement document template
Use this template to map out the logistics of a software project. Use the Operations & Support section to specify a communication, quality management, and software project training plan and track regulatory requirements compliance details.
Agile project plan template
Use this agile project plan template to plan, track, and manage all aspects of an agile development project. Lists basic details and allows you to break down agile sprints into features with tasks, assign story points, indicate risk, and assign tasks.
This template also includes a Gantt chart, which automatically adjusts when you edit the task components to provide an easy-to-read visual representation of your agile project timeline.
Benefits of using a requirements gathering template
- Effectively collect and prioritize what is required from all project stakeholders.
- Edit, name, and rename fields and headings as appropriate.
- Bridge information between the user and developer.
- Easily expand the scope of the document by adding boxes, rows, or columns.
- Prioritize and list all product features and functions and break out by any number of subsections.
Get Started on Gathering and Managing Project Requirements
Gathering and managing requirements across multiple teams for your projects is never easy. It is only the beginning of the process that sets a project in motion. Depending on the project, this process can vary in depth and detail.
Using the right tools can help make the job much easier and less risky. No matter your project, hopefully this overview will get you started and on your way to a successful project experience with minimal risk, error, and scope creep.