The importance of creating Business Requirements Document before embarking on the project

Understanding “Business Requirements Document”

Suppose an organization wants to develop a digital marketing strategy for its business. Now, this is a project, which will have many smaller objectives to achieve. A document containing a detailed description of these objectives or requirements is called a business requirements document (BRD).

Thus, a BRD is a formal report comprising all the requirements of a project or a business solution. It describes in detail all the stakeholder needs for that project. It lists down the expectations of customers or end-users from the project or solution.

In short, BRD describes the ‘what’ of the project. It means, what all an organization must do to complete the project and achieve the goals. It is a document that brings all stakeholders’ thoughts in alignment with each other.

Purpose of a business requirement document

A business requirement document:

Describes the project deliverables

A BRD describes in detail what the business aims to achieve from the project. It lists down the features of the solution. Thus, it describes the project deliverables so that project execution is all about achieving them.

Aligns stakeholders’ thoughts

BRD contains the entire list of requirements as stated by the stakeholders. To prepare this list, you need to interview, discuss, and negotiate with them. Thus, it brings all stakeholders on the same side regarding expectations from the project or solution.

Serves as a reference document

Since it contains the entire list of requirements, the project team refers to it to execute the project. The project manager can refer to it to check what has been achieved and what is pending. You can also use it to check if there is any history of changes made in the requirements.

Leaves no space for assumptions

A BRD describes the project and its inclusions in detail. It includes milestones to achieve, cost-benefits analysis, and scheduling of the project. Thus, there is no chance for ambiguity, uncertainty, or assumptions in a BRD.

Reduces the chances of failure

Since a BRD mentions the purpose behind the project, the project team understands the importance of the project. It lists the requirements in a clear, complete, and concise way to make it easily understandable for all. Thus, there are no chances of misinterpretations, missing needs, or miscommunication. This improves the possibility of project success.

Understanding “Business Requirements Document”

There are many different types of requirements documents, in addition to a BRD: 

  • Functional requirements document: It explains how the system will function and achieve the requirements mentioned in a BRD. 
  • Product requirements document: It outlines the end-users’ perspective on what the product must do.  
  • Technical requirements document: It mentions the requirements related to the software, hardware, and platform of the product.  
  • Software requirements document: It describes the features of the system that is to be developed.  
  • Market requirements document: It defines the market and its needs.  
  • Quality requirements document: It describes the customers’ needs in terms of the quality of the product that includes performance metrics. 
  • Customer requirements document: It outlines the expectations of the client or customers from the product or project. 
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Key components of a Business Requirements Document

The key sections of a BRD are:

Executive summary

It is a short description of the key points of the project. In this section, you must write a short background on the project. You must be able to attract the readers’ attention by summarising the below components in a clear, concise way. You must write this section after writing all the other components of the document. Ensure to keep the summary within three or four paragraphs. The reader must understand what the project is about and what it aims to achieve.

Project objectives

In this section, you will mention the objectives of the project. These objectives must be SMART (smart, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely). Herein, you answer questions such as:

- Who is the target audience for this project?

- What goals does it want to achieve?

- How does it solve business needs?

- Who are the stakeholders of the project?

- What will be the deliverables of the project?

Needs statement

This project component answers the why of the project. It mentions the purpose of the project and how its completion will lead to the achievement of project goals. It is specifically aimed to develop trust in sponsors, leaders, team members, and other stakeholders of the project so that they support it.

Project scope

This project element defines the boundaries of the project. It mentions the inclusions and exclusions in the project. It outlines the features and functionalities that the project must achieve and what need not be covered.

For this section, ensure to be as specific as possible. Anything not mentioned in specific terms or assumed points may lead to confusion or conflicts. Project scope ensures that there is no wastage of effort, money, or time.

Requirements

This element includes all the requirements of the project. You must mention what tasks have to be done and what is needed to be achieved. Also, add a priority to each requirement since that helps in project execution.

For each requirement, you can write in text or represent in any other format. You can use graphs, flowcharts, data points, or any other visual format to make it clear to every reader. Ensure that the requirements are consistent, clear, complete, and not in conflict with other requirements.

Stakeholders

This section includes all the stakeholders of the project – internal or external, primary or secondary, and direct or indirect. Mention their names, positions, role in the organization, and responsibility in the project. This leads to a clarification on who does what work, which no one can question. Documentation of roles and responsibilities leads to accountability and commitment from everyone.

Financials

Financial statements are an important part of a BRD because you need to know the financial impact of the project. In this project element, include details on the sources of funding. Also, add the expected effect of the project on the company’s balance sheet, expenses, and revenues.

Timelines and resources

You must add the timelines for each activity, task, and phase of the project. Prepare a schedule with details on the start date, end date, and person responsible for the task. Also, mention the dependencies of tasks/activities on each other and schedule them accordingly.

Define the milestone at the end of each phase so that you can track your progress. Mention the potential challenges and the impact they will have on changing timelines. That is why you must account for some elbow room for uncertainties.

For each phase, you must define the person responsible and the team. Also, identify the need for more human resources, skills required, and expected costs for hiring them. The timelines and resource specifications enable all stakeholders to monitor the project performance daily.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis of the project is essential for a clear idea of its execution. In this section, you analyze the internal strengths and weaknesses of the project. You must also assess the opportunities or threats that the project may face externally.

It gives you a broad idea of the project and its implications for the business. You and your team members will be able to understand its feasibility. Overall, you will try to

Work on strengths

Minimize project’s weaknesses

Beware of threats

Take advantage of opportunities

Cost-benefit analysis

The final, but one of the most important components is the cost-benefit analysis of the project. You have to mention all the costs involved in the project. Also, outline the potential benefits of the project.

Now, perform a cost-benefit analysis to compare the advantage you are getting against how much you are spending on the project. This will help you derive the return on investment (ROI) of the project.

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Best Practices for Business Requirements Documents

Learn from past projects

One of the good ways to learn is to refer to past documents or projects. Successful projects teach you what to do and failed projects teach you what not to do. You can refer to the business requirements document of these projects to learn how to make them.  

This makes your task easier, faster, and simpler. If you can duplicate some of the tasks or procedures, it will save you time and costs. Specifically, use some insights to identify requirements and resources.  

Refer these projects and their documents to: 

  • Understand how the requirements are elicited and written 
  • Identify the possible challenges 
  • Comprehend what worked and what did not work in these projects 
  • Identify similar projects and use them as a base for creating BRD 

Prepare for the process

When you land a project, you do not start making the BRD immediately. Prepare for it thoroughly. You must do some background secondary research to understand the project. Read your past projects to comprehend the business requirement document writing process.

Know your stakeholders

Identifying stakeholders is one thing and knowing them is another. For the project, you need to understand their needs and expectations. For this, try to know them better. You must understand their roles and responsibilities and the way they work.

It is better to gather requirements in their preferred technique of collecting requirements. Determine that technique to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in gathering requirements. By gathering requirements from varied stakeholders, you can include all angles of the project.

Use effective techniques of requirements elicitation to include all requirements

Proper methods of collecting requirements can ensure the completeness of requirements. For this, you must implement techniques that are suitable to the project type and stakeholders’ preference. It can be any of the following: 

  • Interviews 
  • Brainstorming 
  • Surveys 
  • Focus groups 
  • Observation 
  • Workshops 
  • And, many others 

You may use any of them or multiple methods to ensure no requirements are missed.  Define a standard for your requirements. Ensure that each requirement fulfills the defined standard to be considered as complete and comprehensive.  

The requirements elicitation process must continue during the project. Requirements may change or new ones may come up or existing ones are not needed anymore. In any of these situations, the BRD will change. So, keep your ears and eyes open during project execution to avoid missing any updates

Provide visual representations

Not every reader is comfortable with reading a lot of text. It is better to add visual elements to your requirements documents for better comprehension. Visuals are self-explanatory and more compelling for the audience.

So, use different types of visual elements such as Venn diagrams, infographics, flowcharts, scope models, etc to explain your requirements. These visuals simplify the requirements and make them easy to digest for readers. Specifically, in the case of complex requirements with lots of data, procedures, or jargon.

Explain requirements in simple words with no jargon

The business requirements document will be read by project stakeholders. These people belong to different functions, departments, and have different skills and knowledge. Not everyone would be able to understand the technical language.

So, explain the requirements in clear language so that every reader understands them. Using simple words instead of jargon will eliminate the possibility of misinterpretations and confusion.

Use less technical words to explain contexts and requirements. Even if you are using them, explain all these terms in another dedicated section.

Collaborate with team members

Writing a BRD is not an easy process. You need to look at all aspects of the project. You must understand the requirements of each function and explain them clearly.

So, it is better to have a team to help you with the requirements elicitation process. If not, at least be open to suggestions, inputs, and feedback from peers. This will facilitate a 360-degree view of the project.

Validate the document

You finish writing the business requirements document. The process does not end here. Ask your team members to read the document and give their feedback. Stakeholders must review it to suggest any changes that may affect the project.

Also, it creates an alignment between stakeholders regarding covered requirements. Validation ensures that you have not missed any requirement or added anything irrelevant. You must validate the document before the final sign-off and start of the project.

Final thoughts

You must be aware of the expectations from a project before starting to execute it. This is where a well-written business requirements document plays an effective role. It guides the team members in knowing what to do, when, and who will do it.

A business requirements document is also useful when you are looking for an external party to address the requirements. The document plays a key role in aligning the thoughts of all stakeholders regarding project outcomes. Thus, BRD is essential to provide the necessary outline of the project structure to team members.

If you need help in preparing the business requirements document, Technovisors’ expertise is available to you. We have professionals in this field who sit with your internal team to collect requirements. We study every aspect of the project and include the necessary details to guarantee your project success.

Technovisors is an IT consulting services provider in Ahmedabad, India. We have been providing relevant support to our clients across the world in IT services. Besides, we are also adept at offering digital marketing and data analytics services.

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FAQs On Business Requirements Document

Generally, a business analyst is responsible for creating a business requirement document. But, there can be a lot of project team members providing the necessary help. Project managers, developers, subject matter experts, business partners, etc may be involved in creating the BRD depending on business type, size, and project type. Everyone must provide the required support to facilitate the creation of a complete, clear, and easy-to-understand BRD.

Yes, you must check the feasibility of your project requirements. Checking the feasibility of BRD helps you to know whether you can fulfill it or not. Any project has limitations with respect to time, funds, skills, effort, and process.  

First, find out any constraints related to any of these factors. Then you must evaluate whether, despite these limitations, your project execution is possible or not. If the final deliverable of the project is possible, then the project is feasible.

About the Author

Pathik Shah

(CISA, FCA, CS, DISA (ICAI), FAFP (ICAI))

Pathik is a multi-disciplinary professional with more than 22 years of experience in compliance, risk management, accounting, system audits, IT consultancy, and digital marketing. He has extensive knowledge of Anti-Money Laundering rules and regulations, and he helps companies comply with legal requirements. Pathik also helps companies generate value from their IT investments.