Let me start by appreciating the fact that businesses tend to be ineffective and unprofitable when certain requirements are not satisfied. Not until these requirements are met, business tends to remain on a spot as far as progress is concerned generally. Hence, to make your business effective and to meet up your set up goals and objectives, certain basic requirements must be met. I want us to clear fully examine Seven Basic Business Requirements. Here we go!
1. Your Attention.
As a sole proprietor, your business demands your whole attention if you really want your business objectives and goals achieved. You have got to commit not only your equity (capital investment), but also your whole self. Attention basically comprises of three factors which include:
i. Skills and Expertise. All you have got in terms of intellectual capacity or property as some will say, is required by your business.
ii. Time. All your time have to b allotted to your business if you want progress otherwise, little trends would be visible.
iii. Resources. Apart from your initial capital, you have to commit more of your personal resources to your business as every business is resources demanding- please bear this in mind.
Quite a lot of people have defined management. But in this context,it is your ability to control, guide and direct all your resources in the right proportion. your business requires that you guide, control and direct all your resources to meet up your set up goals and objectives. This entails adequate human resources development and direction as well as a good resources distribution. Adequate resources leads to an effective business as well as a good profit base investment.
3. Finding The Right Market Place.
The environment in which your end products are finally consumed or bought for the end user is very vital in this sense. Like it was shared in the last article, where I talked about increasing your Stock Turn Over (S.T.O), your market base should be able to fit into your products. When your products do not meet the intent desire of the folks in your environment, that is your immediate market place,it inevitable that such business will suffer a defeat. But if adequate market place is provided, it is inevitable that there would be a traffic of customers at your disposal. Finding a suitable and fitting market place is a requirement to make your business effective.
4. Other People’s Services.
Let me start from the fact as far as the global economy is concerned, no one nation or country is self sufficient. No one country or nation is independent economically. Put in other words, every nation or country is dependable on the economic services of other countries of the world. In fact, this is the basis of international trade. Just as international trade is inevitable, the services of others as regard to your business is also inevitable. No matter the potential capacity or how small your business is, employ the services of other people. Other people’s services matter in your business. Their services could help you solve certain problems in your business which you would not have ordinarily solve.
5. A Good Awareness.
In this 21st Century, information is the order of the day. In fact, that is the basis for Technological Revolution. 90 per cent of people want information. So giving your clients or prospective buyers the needed information tends to pull a traffic of buyers and patronizers at your disposal. IF the need be, strengthen the force of your business awareness.
6. Others Opinion.
For the sake of improvement and business quality, you can demand or seek for the opinions of other people as regard to your business. Place importance on what other people would say when it comes to your business products and services. It is not necessary that you execute every opinion but that you evaluate and see if any suggested opinion fits the improvement and quality of your business. The choice is yours but the opinions are theirs. Let them give their thoughts about your business and its products but you make the choice.
7. Proper Incentives.
As your business grows, the need arises for the employment of other people services. As a form of increasing the profitability basis of your business, you have to introduce a proper incentive packages for the employed. Doing this creates their zeal towards productivity thereby creating an avenue for their exploits in your business.
“Technology needs to understand what the business wants, so requirements have to be gathered from all relevant business functions.”
This is a commonly perceived and communicated objective for creating a Business Requirements Document. However, the experienced Business Analyst knows that the first step is not gathering requirements but creating them.
Why a Business Requirements Document (BRD)?
Constantly changing market conditions compel businesses to tailor their products and service offering accordingly. Clients today are loyal only to their top and bottom lines, and every successful business continuously adds new products or amends the existing ones to cater to client needs. But in order to efficiently support products, the business infrastructure must be enhanced or tweaked accordingly.
A BRD is a document that defines the to-be-incorporated changes from all affected support functions.
Contrary to popular belief, a BRD is not just something that Technology will use to build systems; it is a reference manual for all functions to comply with for comprehensive support, reporting and compliance with regulatory guidelines.
Why do requirements always keep changing?
Because most often, users don’t have them.
Users are the defined as those individuals who will regularly interact with the changes (as defined in the BRD) once they are built. Logically, they are burdened with the task of defining and testing these requirements as well. One key assumption, which is almost always proven false, is that users know exactly what is required.
Let’s quickly see why -
Changes can be broadly classified into two categories – enhancement of existing features and build of new functionality. While enhancements have a pre-existing base making it easier for users to know ‘what they want’, new functionality is most often based upon a business strategy or regulatory guideline.
Why a Business Analyst (BA)?
Seldom seen in the real world, a true BA should be empowered to justify his title and analyze the business need. What happens most often is that the BA is asked to reach out to the expert users and collate their inputs as requirements. Given stringent timelines, no one in the entire build process revisits what the users give.
Ideally, a BA should not be asking the users for requirements, he should ask for what functionality is expected; the BA should then convert that explanation (in simple English) to requirements that can be understood by Technology and other support functions such as Finance, Tax, Compliance and Operations.
Creating a BRD can be simple if the approach is take-from-the-users, paste-into-a-document and send-to-technology, but this invariably leads to significant rework which crops up at the testing phase. An effective business requirements document is borne out of a discussion on why something is required followed by creating the right set of requirements to achieve it.
As a management consultant Aashish has had an opportunity of working with giants in the Investment Banking, Credit Ratings, Mortagage, Insurance and Logistics Industries.
Business strategy, budgeting, prioritization, feasibility studies, efficiency analysis, team formation, resource identification, on the job motivation, stakeholder management, business development… the list seems to be a proverbial lexicon of key resume words, but as a management consider Aashish is lucky to use these skills on a regular basis while at work.
Every project needs a business requirements specification document because it is the formal agreement between the client/end-users, the business owner/stakeholder and the project manager. It states exactly what will and will not be included in a project and what the end-user can expect once the project is completed. This is true for projects that are an extension of an existing status quo, such as enhancements to a software system, just as much as to projects involving brand new scenarios such as the development of new corporate policies.
Fully analysing your business requirements before embarking on a new project will lead, not only, to improvements but to a transformation of the business. So instead of ending up with a new business process, policy or system you could actually enable a substantial change in the business.
All new projects in the workplace are instigated in response to a business need or a business failing. Huge amounts of time and resources are usually expended to fulfil the business need but there is often a mismatch between what is delivered and what was actually needed. A thorough business requirements analysis can help to avoid this scenario by defining and clearly documenting the requirements for a specific business objective. It is the process that enables a clear and precise definition of the scope of a project and by breaking down the business needs into specific tasks it helps to assess the resources needed to complete the project.
What are the best ways of getting started on the analysis process? Fortunately there are some well-recognised techniques for gathering the information needed in a Business Requirements Document. This list is not exhaustive but gives an overview of possible methods to use.
In all of these methods of gathering information, it is important to recognise that individuals from different business areas will only view the project from their own perspective and may not see the bigger picture. The analysis is intended to understand the different perspectives and document exactly what the project should achieve.
Brainstorming is one of the best ways to produce lots of ideas on a particular topic in a short space of time. Set aside an hour in a relaxed environment with no distractions and invite people from all areas involved in the project. But keep the group to no more than 12 people for it to be most focussed and most effective.
The business analyst should encourage participation and a flow of ideas, which are written down on a whiteboard, flipchart, post-it notes etc. When there are plenty of thoughts, ideas and suggestions written down, the analyst then helps to determine which ideas are likely to provide the best solution and, therefore, require further discussion.
Business Analysts use storyboarding to break down a project into small elements in order to focus on one element at a time. This helps to easily identify where information is lacking and where further analysis is required. It also helps in organising the work and communicating in unambiguous language to the end-users.
Interviewing key personnel involved in the project is an extremely effective way of eliciting relevant information but it is important to interview the right people and also to make sure the interview questions stay focussed on the topic in question.
So before embarking on an analysis interview the questions should be prepared to ensure they are open questions (i.e. ones that require more than a one-word or brief answer) and that they cover the key points of: Function, Features, Preferences and User Expertise.
It is often difficult for people to visualise a product, process or system when it is completely new. So for projects which are not an extension of improvements of something that already exists, it is useful to produce a mock-up or model of the product or system to help end-users or clients to visualise what the final product will look like. Prototypes can help to identify inconsistencies, potential problems and usability issues.
Prototypes are most effective once some or all of the other techniques have been used to gather a full idea of the business requirements.
Interpreting the Requirements
Once all the requirements have been gathered and are documented at a high-level of detail it is necessary to determine which requirements can actually be delivered and which requirements are unnecessary to the fulfilment of the business objectives.
Some requirements are more important than others so they must all be prioritised to identify those which are fundamental to delivering a product, system or service and those which are “nice-to-have”.
It is also vital to assess the impact that the new project will have for existing processes and staffing skills and levels. For example, will members of staff need to be re-trained or will some roles become redundant?
Documenting the Detailed Requirements
Requirements must always be written down in language that is easy to understand, precise and unambiguous. Use simple language wherever possible, particularly if the document is not written in the first language of any of those who will be reviewing it. Avoid technical jargon whenever possible, but where it is necessary, clearly state exactly what a term means.
The document must contain sufficient detail that the new product, process or service can be created, tested and ultimately become a “live” product.
All of the requirements must be measurable or quantifiable and it must be possible to test the new product to verify that it meets the business objectives. Every individual task in the requirements document must contribute, even if indirectly, to the end result.
This check-list covers the basics of a Business Requirements Document but writing effective requirements using industry standards and best practices is a topic in its own right that is covered in detail on most project management courses:
Clear, unambiguous wording
Sufficiently detailed to create the product/process
Test cases and conditions can be easily defined
It is possible to achieve the desired final product/process
Each requirement can be tracked in the final product/process
Every requirement is necessary to satisfy the business objectives.
A Business Requirements Document is a formal document that effectively provides a contract between a “supplier” and a “client”. The “client” is typically a business department and the “supplier” is the company or other business department that will create and deliver the new product, system or process. The document describes in detail every business need and is written in response to a known business problem or shortcoming. The Business Requirements Document is not expected to describe in detail the solution to the business needs but to describe what the business wants and needs. For technical products, such as new or modified software systems, further technical specifications will be prepared.
Various techniques, such as brainstorming, story boarding, use cases and interviews, will have been used to gather the requirements during a business requirements analysis process. That information needs to be written down in a clear, concise format in language familiar to the business users. The process of documenting and refining the business requirements helps to identify conflicting requirements and potential issues early on in the project lifecycle. It is the key document in the effective project management of any type of project.
The business requirements document effectively defines the Scope of a project. This is the description of what will be included in the project and also what is specifically excluded from the project.
Scope is a definition of the limits or boundaries of a project and the reason it is so important is because poor management of the project scope is one of the major causes of project failure. Good management of the project scope by the project manager involves 3 key factors:
devote adequate time to fully defining the requirements
reach a formal agreement on the scope with the stakeholders
avoid scope creep
Scope creep is when un-authorised or un-budgeted tasks lead to uncontrolled alterations to the documented requirements during the course of the project. The business requirements document should address the possibility of requests for additional tasks in a project and state how they will be dealt with. This usually involves a formal Change Request Procedure that requires the agreement of all stakeholders to any changes of specification, budget or delivery time. The fact that the business requirements document is a formally approved document assists the project manager in implementing and sticking to a Change Request Procedure.
There is, of course, a tendency for changes to be requested during the life of a project. As projects progress, the end-users inevitably see areas where additional features could provide increased benefits. And the purpose of scope management is not to prevent such changes either being requested or implemented, but to ensure that all changes bring substantial, well-defined benefits. And that the budget will be increased accordingly and that the extended duration of the project is acceptable to all parties involved. Failure on the part of the project manager to manage scope adequately undermines the viability of the whole project as approved in the Business Requirements Document.
All changes to the requirements, budget and schedule must be approved by all stakeholders. In large projects it is common for end-users to see their opportunity to have all the “nice-to-have” elements added while major changes are underway – to some extent this is understandable but only if the new features add real business value such as efficiency or accountability and do not require the project to change in such a way as to lose sight of the original business needs that instigated the project in the first place
A business requirements document is likely to need several iterations before it is close to reaching a document acceptable to all stakeholders. Writing such a document can be a complex and intricate process and will probably need many more iterations before approval is actually achieved. This is no reflection on the thoroughness of the analysis process but rather on the simple human difficulty in translating thoughts and speech into clear, unambiguous and thorough wording on the page. Whilst adequate detail is required to fully define the requirements, conversely, too much detail prevents the readers from absorbing the key points. Writing a document that achieves this balance is a skill in itself.
Fortunately, there are a number of best practice approaches and industry standards that can be used to good effect when writing a business requirements document.These will assist in defining the project scope and managing scope creep once the project is underway.
Key Document Elements
Whether the author of the business requirements is the business analyst or the project manager, they should have an understanding of the different levels of requirements and the different elements within the requirements. They must be able to state the business needs clearly, understand the current business process and the key business objectives driving the project.
The following list, whilst not exhaustive, covers the main areas that should be documented in a business requirements document:
Business Problem Statement
Current Business Process
Key Business Objectives
Project Completion Criteria
Features and Functions
New/Modified Business Process
Checklists (Process and Requirements)
Ensuring each of these elements is incorporated in to the document with sufficient detail and clarity is the first step to creating a perfect business requirements document. Techniques for writing effective business requirements are covered on both general project management training courses and on specific business requirements courses.