Best practices to ensure accuracy of requirements management in Agile projects
Understanding requirements management
We all understand and accept that requirements management is extremely crucial for any project. It includes the steps of:
If managed well, it leads to the desired outcomes. These outcomes meet the needs of all stakeholders and customers as per the requirements document. But, you need to manage these requirements during the entire lifecycle of the project.
Managing requirements is comparatively easier in traditional projects where requirements do not change. But, in cases where requirements change, handling them and their achievement is difficult. This is what happens in the case of Agile projects, which are more common nowadays in project management.
How are Agile projects different from Traditional Projects?
Level of flexibility
In Agile projects, you can make changes to the requirements, and hence, the product. So, you do not have to follow the requirements exactly; you can make changes as per the customers’ or stakeholders’ demands. The key is to get a high-quality product.
In contrast, in the case of traditional projects, you cannot make changes to the project. You define the requirements in the beginning and you stick to them. You have to follow a rigid process with no changes in the project timelines and requirements.
Teamwork in planning
Agile projects involve all team members in the planning process. They own the project and make changes collaboratively. There is transparency in the process that allows for a productive working environment.
A traditional project belongs to the Project Manager. He/she is responsible for planning the project, collecting requirements, and measuring success. Team members just do their work as instructed with no say in the project decisions.
Level of complexity
Managers usually apply Agile methodology in the case of complex projects. When there are multiple factors, an interconnectedness between factors, and overlapping processes, you use Agile. Also, if there is a possibility of changes in requirements, Agile is the best method.
On the other hand, you use traditional methodology for less complicated projects with a few factors and no changes. In this case, you are clear on the beginning state and the end state. You have a defined plan with a budget, required skills, and timelines.
Need for project monitoring
Agile projects involve several small iterations at frequent intervals of time. This requires you to monitor the performance at every small interval. This ensures that the team is accountable for their work and you can measure the success easily.
In a traditional project, you prepare a plan at the beginning and the team follows it. There are no frequent interactions, meetings, or escalations. That is why project success is measured at the end.
That is why it is important to manage the requirements accurately in Agile projects. Any error or missed requirements may not lead to desired outcomes. This will result in worse outcomes for the organization or team involved in the project. So, it is better to follow the best practices for requirements management as mentioned in the below section.
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.
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Best Practices for Managing Requirements in Agile Projects
The key best practices for requirements management in Agile projects are:
Collaborative work is the key
Collecting requirements is a critical process. You need to use the right techniques and tools to accumulate them. Also, you need to be sure of the information that you are collecting from stakeholders by validating them.
For all this, Agile teams need to be collaborative while collecting and improving upon the requirements. This helps in better representation of all the requirements of the project. Also, active interactions and knowledge transfer between team members make the requirements more clear and complete.
Sometimes, after eliciting requirements from stakeholders, the project team immediately takes up execution. This leads to incomplete planning, improper representation of the business needs, or inadequate understanding of business value. With collaboration, you can ensure the validation of gathered requirements.
Thus, team members need to have meetings to discuss and negotiate the inclusion and exclusion of requirements. This helps to analyze each requirement from every angle and validate its importance for the project. Also, it gives a clear direction to the project’s movement in the future to lead to value generation for the business.
While eliciting and validating requirements, ensure to prioritize requirements based on their criticality to the project. Also, we use very specific and easy words to describe the requirements so that everyone can understand them. You also need to be careful about avoiding any complicated or valueless information.
Putting requirements in the tangible form helps
Writing the requirements in words is one thing, and putting them in visuals gives another perspective to it. It gives more meaning to the words and the team gets a better understanding of those words. Also, it is said that the human brain processes visual content 60,000 times faster than textual content.
The project team understands the requirements better when represented in a visual format. A combination of visual, text, and audio serves as the best format. With better understanding, the team can make decisions faster, thereby making the process swifter.
Visualization tools are just like making the idea of functionality tangible. With this kind of tangibility, it becomes easier for the team to check its validity; to understand whether the requirement makes sense or not in reality. Thus, visualization puts things into perspective giving you a clear view of the project execution.
With such wireframes or prototypes of requirements, you can understand what the requirement looks and feels like. You are also able to see the interrelationships between different requirements, whether they are in contradiction or alignment. Thus, visualize your project requirements to imagine the product and put it into a defined context.
Focus on the present as well as the future
Managing requirements for the project requires full focus and effort. While you are managing requirements, you need to make sure that these represent the current status of the project. You should be able to manage the diversions, if any, in the requirements.
Based on the current risks, you make changes in the plan and work accordingly. But, you should also consider the expected outcomes and possible gaps in the solution. You must plan for the future so that you reach the desired outcomes.
This helps you when the actual problems of the future arise. Because you did not ignore them beforehand and you planned for their handling, your outcomes improve. Thus, knowing the value that the solution will deliver or the pain point that it will address helps in requirements management.
Manage the changes in requirements
In Agile projects, requirements change as the project progresses. Such changes lead to variations in the development process and software functionalities. You need to be sure of such expected changes and make way for possible corrections and adjustments.
The development team must be ready to make these changes. Incorporation of these changes also requires clear communication and collaboration between teams. If they do not work together, either the requirements are not well-communicated or time is wasted.
So, it is better to have a dedicated team member to track all the incoming change requests. He/she must send these to the development team in coordination with the project manager. The project manager can then ensure the incorporation of changes in requirements and verify them simultaneously.
Document the requirements
Generally, project teams believe that since requirements keep changing in Agile projects, it is not necessary to document them. But, that is not true. Documentation is equally important as in any other project.
The biggest benefit of documentation is an organized way of recording requirements. This also helps the team to stay organized and follow the document during the development process. Also, when some issues arise, you can check at what point things went wrong and what corrective actions can be taken.
Also, in the case of Agile projects, when requirements change, you can add the change, but do not delete the older requirement. This ensures tracking of the changes made in every requirement from the beginning of the project. This also helps you to keep the project on track and within the expected timelines.
Thus, document all stakeholder requirements, design specifications, and project tasks. Mention the capabilities and skills required to manage these requirements and the project. And, update the document as and when change requests come.
Keep these best practices in mind for managing requirements in Agile projects. With this, you will be able to ensure requirements management smartly and tightly. Thus, you can guarantee value generation from the project.
With these practices, you can manage the requirements gathering, validating, and controlling process yourself. You can also hire a professional firm to manage these processes. Such a firm will help you with collecting, reviewing, modeling, validating, and managing the requirements of a project. While you can focus on using the project outcomes for the achievement of business goals and objectives
Technovisors is a leading IT consulting firm in Ahmedabad, India. We provide consultation to our clients regarding IT investments and strategies and help execute them. We align your IT goals with the business goals to facilitate their realization. We help you with:
- Devising IT strategy
- Handling implementation of IT solutions
- Finding the right IT resources
- Choosing the right IT vendor for your needs
- Managing IT costs
A typical process of requirements management includes steps as below:
- Requirements planning to gather requirements
- Requirements development to organize, document, and analyze requirements
- Requirements verification and validation to verify and test the product
- Requirements change management to manage changes as suggested
Yes. The client is actively involved through the entire process of execution of an Agile project. The client keeps suggesting changes to requirements and the project team incorporates those changes. This increases the quality of the product and its alignment with the client’s needs improves. So, it is important to have constant communication with the client in an Agile project.
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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.