Why Do You Need Requirements? – 6 Top Reasons

It would be impossible to spend more than a month in the world of software development and never encounter requirements to some degree. Almost every project is centred around some form of requirements documentation, and there will always be someone ready to wax lyrical about how important it is to define a projects requirements before starting on the interesting stuff.

Unfortunately, these individuals are right; defining requirements is one of the most important tasks in a development project. If you find yourself uncertain as to why, let these top 6 reasons give you the answers.

To guide the estimation process – If you don’t know what you are aiming to achieve at the end of a project, you cannot possibly hope to make reliable estimates on time, resources or cost. Being prepared to take the time to research and define project requirements will provide you with a realistic picture of the levels of demand on these three points, and as a result will give you a baseline for when you make your estimations.

Can be a mechanism to save time overallIt may not always feel like it, but putting time into defining project requirements can actually end up saving time overall. Having to rework or retest features late on in a project has a tendency to take up a lot of time, frequently resulting in missed milestones. By ensuring that you know what needs to be done right from day one, you can significantly reduce the chances of running over that all-important final deadline.

Provides the means to define project completionThe only way to know if a project has been completed successfully is to test the achieved functionality against what it was originally required to do. By defining project requirements, you give yourself the ability to detail, develop and run tests that will accurately reflect whether the project aims have been met.

Can help you stay within your budgetThe budget is something that everyone tends to monitor very carefully, yet is often exceeded. A frequent cause of budget overrun is the inefficient allocation of resources. For example, you may find yourself paying ‘higher rate’ team members to complete tasks that could be handled by those on a ‘lower rate’. By having a plan of how you want to achieve the project’s end goal, you can easily match resource demands to the capabilities of your team. Additionally, by going through the requirements capture process you have the opportunity to identify and remove features that have no real relevance to your end goal, effectively removing the expense of creating pointless features.

Allows for clarity between stakeholders and development teamsNo matter the type of project, if the result doesn’t meet the expectations of the stakeholders it cannot be signed off as successful. By making requirements definition one of the very first tasks to be completed you will have access to a clear description of the planned functions, allowing you to ensure that both your team and your stakeholders are happy with the plan.

Assists in the transfer over to the end userWaiting patiently at the end of every development project there will be an end user, who more often than not will have had very little involvement in the development process and will need instructions on how to use the final product. Creating user manual documentation is a simple method of facilitating this transfer of knowledge, and as such is always included in a project plan. In capturing the requirements, you need to understand the use cases, so by defining project requirements you can simplify the process even further.

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