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Requirement gathering, what is it and how to do it?

Written by Alex Curtis

Embarking on a new digital initiative takes careful and strategic planning from day one.

Requirement gathering (otherwise known as discovery), is one of the preliminary components to understanding business objectives and project requirements.

Ensuring high-level requirements are clear and specific from the beginning of a project allows for a smooth website design and build while saving costs on resources and development.

sticky notes with text on a wall

What is it?

Requirement gathering is a practice to research and discover business needs from users, stakeholders and systems. Typically, this is conducted through meetings and workshops with the relevant parties.

The idea is to dedicate time to brainstorm specific requirements that add true value to the end business objective and eventually lead to signing-off the scope of the work.

It is not as straightforward as thinking ‘what do I want on my website’ as you may not be aware of the various possibilities.

Who should be involved?

The first step is to consolidate a list of key stakeholders who will participate in requirement gathering sessions.

This should include members who have: 

  • Direct knowledge of the product or service i.e. product owner
  • Technical understanding (if any) of existing platforms i.e. development lead
  • Authority to approve budgets and SOW’s i.e. Manager
  • Operational experience e.g customer lead/end users of a website or platform

 

Other team members may be required depending on a business’s size and needs – for example, a head of marketing, or a CEO.

While it is not necessary for every member to attend requirement workshops, it is good practice to ensure they are looped in on the discovery process.

Let’s look at some techniques.

Begin with a kick-off meeting with the relevant team members and communicate the high level scope of the work. This will ensure that all parties involved have a mutual understanding and agreement when brainstorming for requirements.

Interviews

Collect data on the users of your online platform, and set up interviews with them. This can be done through user surveys or in person with questions pertaining to their frustrations, pain points and motivations.

Often, individual interviews reduce the pressure for end users to outline the negative aspects of a company website vs group meetings.

Workshops

Workshops are a great way to keep requirement meetings interactive with the ability to feedback in a discussion setting with stakeholders. The requirement format can be classified with a list of user stories e.g. “As a (user) I need to (achieve something)”.

Each story can be placed on a sticky note on the wall and categorized into priorities. The visual representation can make it easier to paint the bigger picture. Tackling high priority items first and leaving the rest to implement later is a good ‘phasing’ system to avoid bottlenecks (both in time and budget) for when the actual work is carried out.

Prototyping

In many cases, stakeholders may not have a clear picture of how specific requirements and functionalities may work. Creating several mock-up designs of what the platform might look like provides a visual boost on thinking outside the box.

This can be further expanded with a technique called ‘storyboarding’. This is essentially drawing each sequence of events for every action taken e.g. the user journey from landing on the homepage to making an online purchase. This is useful to identify gaps in processes that hinder a purchase action.

Starting with these techniques should get you a substantial list of requirements. However, keep in mind that you don’t have access to unlimited budgets and resources. Prioritising key requirements from the beginning of the project will reduce the chances of scope creep and overspend.