Developing and managing business requirements are key to a successful software development project. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest things to get right. The shape-shifting nature of requirements – aligning the needs of multiple stakeholders, elicitation and definition, liaising with different teams – puts pressure on the development process. Requirements development and management can falter at various points in a project, causing you to build your software on a faulty foundation of requirements.
Prototyping can help a Business Analysis team avoid some of the most common mistakes in requirements development and management. Requirements prototyping, the focused use of interactive prototypes to shape the design process, can play a part at several key stages of a project. Using a prototype to manage requirements and communicate a proposed software solution to stakeholders is a powerful way of keeping stakeholders on board and building agile workflows.
These 5 common mistakes of requirements development and management are all too easy to make, but with a comprehensive prototyping tool you can tackle them head-on.
1 - You’re missing clearly defined requirements
Your client obviously wants their new app to play a functional role for their clients or users. In some cases, it’s hard for the client to communicate exactly what that function or purpose is; or worse, the client might change the objective as requirements are being developed, once they start seeing the result. As part of the Business Analysis team, it’s your job to nail down objectives as early as possible by gathering functional and non-functional requirements; these requirements will allow you to clearly define the problem and deliver an effective solution. At the early stage of the project, a prototyping tool expedites the process by visualising requirements and allowing you to define features and functionality specifically targeted to those clearly defined requirements.
2 – Your stakeholders are not on board
We live in a busy world. Convincing stakeholders to attend multiple requirements elicitation and review sessions can seem like a near-impossible task, especially when you need them to really focus on requirements and give feedback. If you struggle to get your stakeholders involved at the start of your project, requirements are almost guaranteed to come out faulty.
If you leverage your prototyping tool to produce early-stage simulations, however, you give stakeholders something visual and comprehensible to work with: they can see your proposed solution and even test it out at the development stage, thus enabling them to give sound requirements information or to make the necessary adjustments. They can do that sitting at their desk, in any browser or directly on a device. There’s no need to add another meeting to the busy agenda. Increased stakeholder involvement leads to higher productivity and accuracy in the requirements development phase, which of course means less rework down the line.
3 – You’re not gathering information methodically
Depending on the scale and complexity of your software development project, you could be working with large teams of fellow Business Analysts to gather the necessary information. Different approaches to elicitation, or inconsistent approaches to recording information, can obviously make it harder to organize what has been gathered. Prioritisation inevitably suffers, and your requirements won’t provide an accurate reflection of the project’s scope.
Use a prototyping tool to gather all your requirements in one place efficiently, and then share your prototype with stakeholders to encourage them to correct and adjust their requirements. After implementing those changes, you can run the requirements by stakeholders again until everyone is on the same page. By gathering requirements in this focused and agile way, you’ll start off with the strongest requirements’ foundation possible.
Further down the line in the project, you can leverage interactive prototypes to allow stakeholders identify missing requirements. Having the prototype in hand, fully functional, is a great way to gather missing requirements and streamline iteration. Call it interactive requirements elicitation. The more problems are pointed out in the early stages, the more accurate the requirements you will generate and work with.
4 – You’ve got too much information, too little organization
Unwieldy text-based requirements documents are surely a dying breed. Sending lengthy text documents to stakeholders can not only lead to misunderstanding, but can also turn people off. Lengthy text documents are, if we’re honest, unlikely to be read by many stakeholders, and even if they do read your textual requirements, most end-users will be none the wiser about the functions of your software solution.
Prototyping tools obviate the need for text-based requirements documents. All your requirements are within your prototyping tool and you can create new requirements directly into the tool, or import/export from CSV files as you need to. When you share your prototypes, everyone can see the requirements and their related functions, meaning that everyone stays organized and focused.
5 – You’re not communicating effectively
For your software requirements, and therefore your software application to come out perfect, you have to make sure you’re communicating your ideas clearly with all involved parties, from end users to testers and developers. Communicating requirements with a prototype makes visualization of ideas a done deal. Showing a prototype with end-to-end user workflows and walking stakeholders through these opens up bilateral communication and can help you identify gaps in your solution. Of course, showing a fully functional prototype is one of the most effective ways of communicating your proposed software solution to clients and user acceptance testers. You can integrate comments and feedback directly into your prototype and share those with all relevant parties, streamlining communication and ensuring that nothing gets lost in the process.
With prototyping tools like Justinmind, you can avoid these typical pitfalls before they happen, thereby building a solid requirements definition and management system. Out of that comes a solid project and a winning software.
Cassandra Naji is Marketing Content Editor at Justinmind, a prototyping tool for web and mobile apps that allows you to create high fidelity, collaborative prototypes securely on your own servers.