Requirements management (sometimes called requirements engineering or requirements definition) is among the first steps of a product lifecycle management process. Requirements management is situated at the intersection of software development, project management, and stakeholder communication.
The requirements management process is also a large part of project management. Within any software development process lies a set of requirements. These are derived from stakeholders—a group ranging from end-users to business leaders to government regulators. It’s the job of the development team to ensure these requirements are being met along the relevant phases of the product management process.
It's how companies take raw ideas into more detailed requirements. The steps of how to manage requirements involve documenting, analyzing, prioritizing, and visualizing what stakeholders want from your products and services. Requirements management also typically includes change management for requirements, requirements traceability, collaboration with relevant stakeholders, and approvals of requirements.
Key Capabilities for Requirements Management
While requirements management offers numerous advantages, it's not devoid of challenges. Scope creep, changing requirements, and the need for continuous change management are vital. However, with robust risk management, a well-defined requirements management plan, and adherence to industry standards, these challenges can be effectively mitigated.
Requirements definition acts as your requirements baseline and requirements specification. It details what stakeholders are looking for in your product or service. Project requirements or product requirements are often documented as user stories, use cases, business needs, marketing requirements, technical requirements, or a combination. Requirements definitions may often include level of effort, timing, costs, and other factors. These are typically collected in a requirements document (most businesses have templates that project managers can reuse for this) that can easily be referenced throughout the project. It’s also important to define functional requirements and non-functional requirements.
Requirements analysis and prioritization:
During the requirements-gathering stage, it’s important to remember that not all carry equal weight. Prioritization ensures that resources are allocated to the most critical requirements, aligning with both business objectives and user needs. Once requirements are defined, companies need to determine what is feasible, how they align with product and corporate strategy, ROI, and so on. Requirements analysis typically involves multiple stakeholders and may result in updates to requirements definitions.
For some industries, especially software development, being able to see or play around with a set of requirements is a critical element of turning requirements into real products. It may include mockups, early prototypes, models, etc. for feedback from stakeholders. There are several requirements management software tools that help you to visualize the project requirements. Not only can you track requirements with something as basic as spreadsheets, but some requirements management tools are able to automate tracking and view the impact of changes on long-term project deliverables.
Requirements change management:
As requirements are discussed and prototypes are modeled, it's inevitable that there will be changes. A robust change management process is critical for keeping everyone on the same page. It's especially helpful if there's an auditable requirements approval process. The right process for requirements management helps to combat project scope creep and unnecessarily changing requirements. Occasionally these changes create an iterative process for each requirement.
Requirements management is typically thought of as an internal process, but even then collaboration is important across multiple engineering, marketing, operations, and sales teams. Best-in-class companies also consider requirements collaboration with external partners, suppliers, channels, and even customers.
As a product is being developed and finalized, requirements traceability helps ensure that the final product is actually meeting what requirements are agreed upon. The proper documentation gives you end-to-end traceability for all requirements. It provides a cohesive map, linking requirements to their origins and ensuring that subsequent requirement changes are coherently managed. This traceability ensures that every requirement is accounted for, from inception to validation.
A requirement's lifecycle doesn't end with its documentation. It extends to validation, often via test cases. This relationship underscores the importance of end-to-end traceability, ensuring that requirements are not just documented but also validated.
Benefits of Requirements Management
From rudimentary spreadsheets like Excel to sophisticated requirements management software like JIRA and IBM's suite, the tools at our disposal have evolved. These tools, combined with iterative methodologies, offer functionalities like requirements reuse, impact analysis of changes, and automated workflows.
In the broader spectrum of product development, requirements management seamlessly integrates with PLM, ensuring that product requirements are consistently met across different stages. When your PLM platform is connected with your QMS, such as Propel Software’s offering, you can seamlessly ensure that quality standards, both functional and non-functional requirements, are adhered to.
Requirements don't exist in isolation. They are intertwined with project management methodologies, ensuring that team members are aligned and that deliverables adhere to the stipulated requirements. Utilizing a requirements management tool can further enhance this alignment, offering functionalities like version control, change control, and real-time dashboards. Companies who excel in requirements management can expect the following benefits:
- Higher customer satisfaction
- Better understanding of end-user wants
- Greater market share
- Faster time to market
- Less rework
- Higher product quality
Learn more about Propel's approach to requirements management, which offers a highly flexible and collaborative requirements management solution built on a world-class platform.