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Why Requirements Planning will make Projects Life Easier

By Amy Corbett, Business Consultant North America, FINEOS

Could you imagine if we were a society of non-planners? What if we did everything on a whim or spontaneously? Although it might be a little refreshing and exciting at first, chaos would surely follow.  Could you imagine how your employees or your clients would react to your new philosophy? Your business would change and your goals would not be met, no matter how hard you worked at it.

Planning is a key to our society. It is a vital part of how we get things done. From what we are going to wear each day, where we are going for lunch, what meetings we are going to attend, and what information needs to be disseminated, we are planners. Planning is a good thing. It helps everyone get things accomplished on time and on budget.  Planning and making preparations for any endeavour makes life easier and less stressful.

Isn’t Project Planning the key to a successful project? Many people think so. A project cannot properly get off the ground without a plan behind it. The Plan is like the heartbeat of a project. It keeps everyone honest and keeps the work going.

Well, before the project plan, before the schedule, before the tasks that need completed, there are the requirements. You know what your requirements are probably before you even choose a vendor and certainly before you can start a project. The requirements gathering process happens way before the project plan is put together.

Before a requirements gathering session is scheduled, why not plan your requirements? Identify the requirements and clearly and concisely lay them out.  Have your users agree on the requirements and identify any potential issues that may arise before having the requirement sessions begin with your vendor. What department or users are affected by the requirements? Prioritize the requirements to help determine what is most important to your implementation.

By doing this planning it will make life easier on your team, the users, and the management. Many of the decisions will either have been made or at least identified that they need to be made in the near future.

Planning your requirements will help with the following:

  • Cost/Budget – by planning ahead of time, the number, the size, and the effort of the requirements can be laid out. A preliminary budget can be identified and although it may need to be revisited, it can begin to take shape. The pressure of the budget can be alleviated by informing the “powers that be” what it is going to take to get your project completed.
  • Resources – Planning will allow you to determine how much time your resources are going to have to take away from their regular jobs to help with requirements. (See cost and budget because this affects those areas too.) You will be able to communicate with the departments that will be affected if you are using current resources. If you need to hire additional resources, those recs can be identified and you can give yourself time to find the right people for the job with the correct skillsets.
  • Time – Requirements take time. Getting the requirements right the first time usually does not happen. You may have to revisit requirements after the initial review.  Planning for the time to identify the requirements time with the right owners involved (See resources above) will make your project a success. Most projects do not give enough time to the requirements gathering phase.
  • Priorities – Determining what the priority is for your requirements. Plan on making the “multiple number one priorities” work within your project. It will take working with the resources and budget and time constraints that always come with a project work. By planning these communications ahead of time you will be able to diffuse a lot of power struggles that come with everyone wanting everything now. It will also help alleviate those “pet projects” from creeping in.
  • Risks – Planning can often uncover the risks that can side line a project.  Even if you cannot eliminate risk, you may be able to mitigate it by identifying it early.

If you plan your requirements just like you plan the rest of your life, your project life will be much easier. Many of the players involved, including management, will be more satisfied with the project.   Fewer surprises will arise because, although planning will not make your project perfect, you should be more prepared and communication should be much better. Making a project calmer and less chaotic will make everyone’s like much easier.

So, what time are we going to lunch?