A software project is grounded in extensive planning, a talented development team, and an organized methodology. And that all starts with your project requirements.
Your software requirements serve as a guide for your project’s evolution. They remind you of why you’re creating the product in the first place, who will benefit from it, and what place it will have in the world. They are the foundations for success and, as such, you have to pay close attention to them.
What Are Software Requirements?
Software requirements essentially indicate what elements are critical to a project’s success. They are carefully considered objectives and goals for your development project, the things that must be included in order to make the product what it is.
There may be fewer essential goals you or the stakeholders have for the project that aren’t requirements. Requirements, in other words, are the must-haves.
These requirements are specified before you start the development process. That’s because they will dictate practically every move you make toward its ultimate completion.
How to Define Your Requirements
1. Make a List of Stakeholders and Discuss the Project with Them
Identifying the stakeholders is a necessary part of the software development project. They might be clients, customers, end-users, sponsoring organizations, organizational leaders, and others. Make a list of these key players before discussing requirements with them.
Not every requirement stakeholders mention will necessarily be feasible or actionable. As a team leader or software developer, it’s your role to provide advice on how the project can evolve and which features can be acted upon. After speaking with them, create a cohesive picture of what you’ve agreed to create.
2. Define the Audience
Who do you expect will be using your product? In order to solidify your requirements, you must have a clear picture of the people who will be using it. You are, after all, tailoring your software to that audience. Work with the stakeholders to develop personas and identify other characteristics you see in your audience so you can create requirements accordingly.
3. Work with the Development Team and Other Critical Players
Even if you’re leading this initiative, you should still be working closely with the development team, as well as other important team members, such as QA analysts and product managers. They will be able to give you insights into how different requirements contribute to the project and what they can do to move the software forward.
4. Determine the Scope of the Project
Determine everything that’s involved in the project as part of identifying what the requirements will be. What kind of undertaking are you about to embark on? What are the various elements that are involved? What kind of timeline are you looking at? What are the stages for this particular project? These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself when you’re planning.
5. Categorize Requirements
Categorizing requirements will help you stay organized. The main categories are functional and non-functional, but it’s a good idea to go beyond them to lay out the objectives of the project in more detail. Consider which categories make the most sense for the project at hand. For example, one that would apply to practically every project is security. Others might include technical and business.
6. Keep Things Simple
Be careful about writing requirements that are overly complex. While the project itself may be complex, the requirements should be clear and straightforward to help your team to meet them in a streamlined manner. Plus, you want to leave room for developers and other team members to try different approaches.
7. Draw a Connection Between Each Requirement and the Purpose of the Software
Every requirement should have a direct link back to the main purpose and mission of the software. That’s what requirements are for, after all: to ensure that the project is completed to the satisfaction of the clients and the end-users. That’s why each requirement should have a purpose that helps in meeting those goals.
8. Use Clear, Precise Language
In any and all relevant documents pertaining to the software, you should use clear, unambiguous language. This will help prevent mishaps from occurring due to confusion or lack of specificity. Be as precise as possible, explaining the 5 Ws of the case whenever the situation calls for it.
9. Create a Software Requirements Specification
A software requirements specification (SRS) is an important document in the development process. It provides a summary of the project and its various components. Some of the elements discussed include:
- The main purpose of the project
• The scope of the project
• Personas and user needs
• Necessary definitions
The SRS includes both functional and non-functional requirements. Essentially, it serves as a guiding document for the developers and the stakeholders, outlining what you’re expected to deliver.
10. Track Requirements
Keep careful track of each and every requirement to ensure that you’re on your way to meeting them successfully. You might use a project management tool to help you manage these requirements, setting deadlines and steps for the completion of each particular benchmark or goal. This will help you visualize the process and ensure that everybody knows what they should be doing at any given point.
11. Document All Changes
Things rarely go exactly as planned when you’re building new software. As the project evolves, so, too, might the software requirements. This is one of the main risks when you’re initiating a software project in the first place.
When requirements do change, make sure you document all those modifications. This will help ensure that you have a paper trail and record of the various iterations the project has gone through.
Requirements gathering is a somewhat involved process, and it’s an important one. But once you’ve followed these steps, you’ll be better equipped to handle projects of varying complexity. You’ll also have a clearer path to follow, making the project more straightforward for everyone involved.