5 Key Steps to Identifying User Requirements: A Lesson from Rosie the Dog

One of our recent Project Management Quotes of the Week was: “This is meant to fix a problem we don’t have.”  While in this case an application analyst was referring to a patch that needed to be applied to a server, IT projects are sometimes implemented without fully identifying user requirements.  In other words, they try to fix problems the users don’t have or, even worse, don’t fix problems the users do have.

Identifying User Requirements in IT ProjectsWe experienced this when we bought our dog, Rosie, a new dog bed.  She always hung her head off of her other one, and we assumed it was because the bed was too small.  But apparently hanging her head off the bed was an unknown user requirement. We tried to fix a problem she didn’t have.

How do you make sure that you’ve gathered the user requirements and help ensure that your IT project will be a success by meeting those requirements? Start by following these steps:

1. Hold a requirements gathering workshop to brainstorm the requirements.  Make sure you include representatives from all of the potential areas impacted by the project, including leadership and executive sponsors.  They may have differing opinions and ideas. During the workshop, prioritize the requirements as “Have to Have”, “Should have”, or “Nice to Have.”  You may need to have more than one meeting depending on the complexity of the project.

2. Document the results. List all of the requirements and their respective priority.  If the project involves replacing an existing system, include a Fit/Gap Analysis so that you know what requirements the current system does and does not meet.

3. Identify the conflicting requirements and priorities, and review those with the executive sponsor(s) prior to meeting with the entire team again. The executive sponsors are the final decision makers for what is or is not part of the project scope.

4. Hold a requirements review workshop with the same participants from the requirements gathering workshop. Review the documented results, and, in conjunction with the executive sponsors, resolve any conflicting requirements or priorities.

5. Establish a change request and approval process for adding new requirements or modifying/removing existing requirements. Often, this includes convening a group to meet and review the requests.  Document the changes in the requirements document.

Following the steps above won’t guarantee a successful project, but they will help make sure the groundwork is laid.

End User AdoptionOh, and Rosie? We have since achieved full end user adoption of the entire dog bed.