Requirements analysis: A look into the process and techniques for better results
What is Requirement Analysis ?
Features of the product/service.
Actual needs of stakeholders.
User expectations from a product/service.
You keep on hearing these phrases before the start of a project. All these are called project requirements. And, the process of determining these is called requirements analysis. It is a crucial element of project management that you cannot ignore.
Requirements analysis is the process of determining, assessing, documenting, validating, and managing requirements. So, for any new system that is being built or updated, you need to do requirements analysis. It helps you to understand the users’ expectations of the product.
It defines the features and functionalities that the stakeholders want the product to have. This involves brainstorming, discussions, and negotiations between project stakeholders. The project is considered a success only if these requirements are met.
In the end, the product features and functionalities must align with the requirements. And, not the other way around. It means that you must not try to modify users’ specifications to fit the final product. And, that is why requirements analysis is important.
Project managers must conduct requirements analysis before preparing the project plan. This way, the requirements analysis document serves as the guide for the movement of the project ahead. With this, you can assure the achievement of business, stakeholders, and project goals.
Steps Involved in Requirements Analysis Process
To conduct a requirements analysis process successfully, you must follow the below steps:
The first step is to gather requirements. For this, you must know all the stakeholders of your project. You must also be aware of the basic scope of the project. Now, you need to interact with these stakeholders to collect requirements.
You can use different ways of communication with stakeholders to get them to talk about their viewpoints on the project. You can conduct one-to-one interviews to get answers to specific questions on the project. Or, you can conduct workshops or focus groups with multiple people to make the process faster.
You can also conduct brainstorming sessions with one function at a time to identify their needs. You also interact with your end-users to know their expectations from the product. With several such sessions with every functional department, you will have a list of requirements ready.
There is another way of listing down the requirements by yourself. You can do this based on your existing project knowledge and extensive research.
Now, you can share this list with the stakeholders and ask them to add, change, or remove. Finally, you can collate your list and all the suggestions and make a final list of requirements.
While interacting with stakeholders, remember to keep the discussions within the limits of the project scope. If not, stakeholders might present any kind of expectations that fall outside the project scope. Also, be ready to accept different perspectives, as that will help you look at the complete picture.
Now, you need to assess the requirements for their quality. For assessment, you can start by categorizing them into functional, technical, operational, and transitional requirements.
You must ensure that the requirements:
- Are defined properly so that developers understand them
- Have no vagueness or ambiguity in their description
- Are clear, concise, and complete
- Relate to the business needs
- Are relevant to the project
- Are feasible enough to achieve them
- Are testable to allow software testers to test them
- Are easy to be tracked, verified, and validated
- Are operationally effective for the project
- Are prioritized based on their criticality for the project
- Are consistent with other requirements so that no conflict situations arise
Now, present the requirements in different formats to make them more understandable. This helps you to improve the quality of requirements. You can use user stories, visualization tools, flowcharts, use cases, or models.
Such models and representations allow a better understanding of the end product. Such models also depict inter-relationships between different requirements. So, if a change occurs in one requirement, the other is also affected. Thus, models will help you know the dependencies before the product development process starts.
Review and retrospective
Describe all the requirements and relevant models in a document. This will prove to be useful for the project team members in the development and testing phase. Members can also use the document to refer to it whenever needed or as changes occur.
Also, review all the requirements for all its qualities. Ensure that all requirements are complete and easily understandable to everyone. You can document them in the form of a software requirements specification (SRS) document or any specific template of your choice.
Requirements Analysis Techniques
Various requirements analysis techniques exist in the market to analyze requirements. Some are complex, some have more merits, while some are easier. Depending on your project size, type, and preference, you can select a technique.
The techniques include:
Data flow diagram
In this technique, you can use visuals to show the process instead of text. As the name suggests, it is a diagram displaying the flow of data through a system. Different notations and symbols are used to depict process, flow, and store.
Generally, it is used at the time of the requirements elicitation step to give an overview of the software. In later stages, when you know more details on a requirement, you can create smaller data flow diagrams.
The key benefit of this technique is that it is effortlessly understandable for technical and non-technical people. Also, it depicts the relationships between requirements, which makes the management of requirements easier.
A demerit of this technique is that it is too time-consuming. Specifically, in the case of complex software requirements, the efforts double.
Gap analysis means assessing the gap between the current state and desired state. It is used to check whether the requirements have been met by the software. You also come to know where you are lacking and what is still pending.
It is more of a manual technique where the results are dependent on the person performing the analysis. Even if the gap is identified, it is more important to identify the reasons behind that gap. If that is not identified, filling the gap becomes difficult.
Gap analysis helps you to know what requirements you have met and what are pending. Thus, it gives clarity in your mind about the next requirements to focus on. Also, you are clear on how you must move ahead to improve the software.
It is a visual representation of the project, with a focus on tasks and time taken. Time is mentioned on the horizontal axis along with the allocated person. The vertical axis has a list of tasks and activities.
You have to allocate time for each task, thereby determining its start and end date. Thus, it gives a clear idea to team members about what to do, when to do it, and by whom. Also, it gives a complete picture of the entire project along with the deadline date.
Gantt charts would be difficult in the case of complex projects, which involve many smaller activities. Also, it becomes difficult when you have to make changes to any task, responsible person, or time.
You can use flowcharts to describe the flow of related activities. You can depict the flow of data or interactions between different requirements. You can make flowcharts in different formats – top-down, linear, or cross-functional.
The best part about flowcharts is they are easy to understand for technical as well as non-technical people. Also, it is easy and simple for the person making the flowchart.
But, it becomes difficult to understand flowcharts of complex processes that depict multiple interactions. You cannot use the same flowchart if there are any changes in the process. You need to draw a fresh flowchart for every process alteration, which takes up a lot of time.
IDEF (Integrated Definition for Function Modeling)
In the IDEF technique, you can model the activities that are necessary for the system design, integration, or analysis. With IDEF, you get a better understanding of the entire system, whether you are a technical or a non-technical person.
Boxes represent the functions of a process. The model also displays the relationships of these functions with child/parent systems. Thus, this technique can be used for any industry or technology.
UML (Unified Modeling Language)
In the UML technique, you can create diagrams to depict the requirements analysis process. You can make a structural model that explains the structure of the system. Alternatively, you can make a behavioral model that explains the activities and processes of software development.
You can choose any one of the UML diagrams available, such as use cases, interactions, sequences, and others. If you use UML, you can display the system’s characteristics, interactions, and behaviors. Thus, you get the idea of the entire software design with the help of UML.
A UML model can serve as an input in a requirements tool to generate the output. But, it becomes difficult to understand UML diagrams in the case of complex processes.
Role Activity Diagrams (RAD)
As the name suggests, RADs are diagrams depicting the roles of people and activities of the process. Thus, it shows all the activities of a process as performed by people in different roles and responsibilities.
The merit of RAD is it shows the entire process of performing activities in order. Thus, it is easier and simpler for people to comprehend it. With clarity on roles and activities, communication between people performing these roles improves.
Business process modeling notation (BPMN)
In this technique, you can create graphs to depict business processes for better understanding. You have to use flow objects, connecting objects, artifacts, and swim lands. With these objects, you can display the data elements required for various activities and the person performing the activities.
The advantage of this model is it simplifies the process for team members so that they can easily understand it. But, a demerit is that something that is not a process cannot be displayed in these models.
User stories mean the description of the software from the perspective of end-users. The end-user talks about how the software generates value for him/her. Thus, it focuses on the exact needs of the user and not on what the system can and will do.
Since the base of this technique is end-users, it is an informal description of the software. It gives a direction to software developers regarding what users want from the software. The best benefit of user stories is that it gives you an exact picture of what the user wants.
But, the project manager must be able to convert these user stories to technical specifications. Only then, it will serve as instructions for requirements for the development team. User stories can serve as the base for discussion on them later on to develop a full mode requirements list.
Now you know the steps of performing requirements analysis and different techniques of doing it. So, get busy with your project and implement the above points for successful project execution. If you are looking for a professional IT consultant to help you with the process, you are at the right place.
Technovisors is a vendor of premium IT consultant services in Ahmedabad. We are there for your IT needs and restructuring when you need it the most. In addition to these, we also provide data analytics and digital marketing services.
Our expert requirements analysis services are suitable for any simple or complex IT project. Our industry experts are thorough with each step of requirements analysis for your project. We aim to meet your stakeholders’ requirements and to satisfy them with the product.
FAQs On Requirements Analysis
The possible challenges in the requirements analysis process are:
- Frequent changes in requirements may affect the process in terms of delays, high costs, or misunderstanding of requirements.
- Communication gaps between stakeholders and project team members can affect the requirements elicitation process.
- Selection of a requirements analysis technique that is not best suited for the type of project that you are engaging in may affect the results.
Requirements are categorized into four types as follows:
Technical requirements: These requirements define the technicalities of a software system.
Functional requirements: These requirements determine the features and functionalities of the software. It defines how the system must operate as per the viewpoint of the end-user.
Operational requirements: These requirements represent the background activities required to be performed to keep the system functioning.
Transitional requirements: These requirements mention the steps of smooth implementation of the system.
About the Author
(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.