Book: How to Write Effective Requirements for IT – Simply Put!

Use Four Simple Rules to Improve the Quality of Your IT Requirements

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Author: Tom and Angela Hathaway
Pages: 111 (estimated)
Publication Date: September 3, 2016

Also available as ecourse and covered in this ILT course.

Preface

Effective Requirements Reduce Project Failures

Writing requirements is one of the core competencies for anyone in an organization responsible for defining future Information Technology (IT) applications. However, nearly every independently executed root-cause analysis of IT project problems and failures in the past half-century have identified "misunderstood or incomplete requirements" as the primary cause. This has made writing requirements the bane of many projects. The real problem is the subtle differences between "understanding" someone else’s requirement and "sharing a common understanding" with the author.

"How to Write Effective Requirements for IT – Simply Put!" gives you a set of 4 simple rules that will make your requirement statements more easily understood by all target audiences. The focus is to increase the "common understanding" between the author of a requirement and the solution providers (e.g., in-house or outsourced IT designers, developers, analysts, and vendors).

The rules we present in this book will reduce the failure rate of projects suffering from poor requirements. Regardless of your job title or role, if you are tasked with communicating your future needs to others, this book is for you.

How to Get the Most out of this Book?

To maximize the learning effect, you will have optional, online exercises to assess your understanding of each presented technique. Chapter titles prefaced with the phrase “Exercise” contain a link to a web-based exercise that we have prepared to give you an opportunity to try the presented technique yourself.

These exercises are optional and they do not “test” your knowledge in the conventional sense. Their purpose is to demonstrate the use of the technique more real-life than our explanations can supply. You need Internet access to perform the exercises. We hope you enjoy them and that they make it easier for you to apply the techniques in real life.

You can learn more business analysis techniques by visiting the Business Analysis Learning Store to see a wide selection of business analysis books, eCourses, virtual and face-to-face instructor-led training, as well as a selection of FREE Business Analysis training.

Audience

This eWorkbook will help anyone involved in capturing, writing, analyzing, or understanding requirements for Information Technology solutions, including (but not limited to):

  • Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
  • Agile Product Owners
  • Project Managers
  • Business Analysts
  • Business Process Managers
  • IT Developers
  • Software Testers
  • Anyone wearing the Business Analysis hat

Regardless of your title or role, if you are involved in defining requirements, this book is for you.

Learning Objectives

Specifically, this eWorkbook will give you techniques to:

  • Express business and stakeholder requirements in simple, complete sentences
  • Write requirements that focus on the business need
  • Test the relevance of each requirement to ensure that it is in scope for your project
  • Translate business needs and wants into requirements as the primary tool for defining a future solution and setting the stage for testing
  • Create and maintain a question file to reduce the impact of incorrect assumptions
  • Minimize the risk of scope creep caused by missed requirements
  • Ensure that your requirements can be easily understood by all target audiences
  • Confirm that each audience shares a common understanding of the requirements
  • Isolate and address ambiguous words and phrases in requirements.
  • Use our Peer Perception technique to find words and phrases that can lead to misunderstandings.
  • Reduce the ambiguity of a statement by adding context and using standard terms and phrases

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • About the Authors
  • Setting the Stage for Writing Effective Requirements
    • Why Do You Need Better Requirements?
    • Managing Uncertainty
    • THE Question File
    • Exercise: The Subjectivity of Language
    • The “Real” Problem with Requirements
  • Requirements and Project Scope
    • Follow the KISS Concept
    • A Complete Sentence Forces a Complete Thought
    • Exercise: Simple, Complete, and Well-Structured
    • Define the Business Need
    • Exercise: Avoiding the Elusive “How”
  • Requirements and Project Scope
    • Keep Your Requirements in Scope
    • Exercise: Relevant Requirement Components
    • Combat Scope Creep from the Start
    • Exercise: Testing the Scope Boundaries
    • Recap of Rules One through Three
    • Exercise: Applying the First Three Rules
  • Finding and Fixing Ambiguous Requirements
    • Who Needs to Understand Your Requirements?
    • Roadblocks to Effective Requirements
    • Desk-Checking Uncovers Ambiguity
    • Exercise: Finding Ambiguity with the SME
    • Use Peer Reviews to Increase Understandability
    • Exercise: Requirement Interpretations
    • Combating the Major Cause of Project Failure
    • Exercise: Revising Requirements to Reduce Ambiguity
  • Best Practices for Improving Understandability
    • Use Acronyms and Corporate Standards
    • Exercise: Using Revisions to Reduce Ambiguity
    • Add Context to Eliminate Ambiguity
    • Exercise: Appropriate Context Reduces Ambiguity
    • Write to the Readability Level of Your Audience
    • Exercise: Using Readability Indices
    • Recap Rule Four
    • Exercise: Rule Four Applied
  • Where Does Your Path Go from Here?

Additional information

About the authors

Angela and Tom Hathaway have authored and delivered hundreds of training courses and publications for business analysts around the world. They have facilitated hundreds of requirements discovery sessions for information technology projects under a variety of acronyms (JAD, ASAP, JADr, JRP, etc.).
Based on their personal journey and experiences reported by their students, they recognized how much anyone can benefit from a basic understanding of what is currently called “business analysis”. Their mission is to allow everyone, anywhere access to simple, easy-to-learn techniques by sharing their experience and expertise in their training seminars, blogs, books, and public presentations.

Requirements ARE Our Business! A video about BA-EXPERTS

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