5 tips for writing detailed business requirements

Detailed business requirements are as valuable as a well written business case. I say this because detailed business requirements provide clarity, just as a well written business case does.

What therefore does it take to create detailed business requirements?  Here are my top five tips:

1. List what is in and out of scope

Be sure that you provide a list of what is in scope and what is out of scope within these business requirements.  What do I mean by that?  Well you need to list if a system or a process is going to be covered by your business requirements.  You also need to say if a specific system or process is not going to be covered.  This lets those reading, reviewing and signing off your business requirements understand if you have covered everything that needs to be covered.  It also very clearly sets the parameters for your requirements.

2. Document your assumptions

In developing your business requirements you will come to make some assumptions, either about the way that something currently is, the way that a process operates, or how you believe something is going to be handled in the future state (after these requirements are in play).  It is very important that you list these.  Again, they provide the clarity for your reader, so that they fully understand which assumptions you have made.  They can test these with their own levels of understanding about how they think or want things to operate post implementation of these requirements, and raise any concerns that they have.

3. Call out any risks

There may be risks of developing a revised process, or engaging in a particular way with the change that you are detailing in your requirements.  Call this or these risks out.  As part of your requirements writing you might find that you are able to clearly mitigate the risk by developing the revised process or system in a specific way.   Calling out the or any risk(s) this early on in any project is valuable, as it allows them the risk(s) to be tracked from the commencement of the project.

4. Understand the end to end business process

In developing your business requirements it is very important that you look at the entire end to end business process.  By doing this you highlight any issues or changes that need to occur in any or all of that process.  You also ensure that your requirements are as complete as they need to be.  By only focusing on system change requirements, as an example, you are missing a lot of the people interaction with the process, which is an equally important part of it.  People being impacted by this change, need to be understood as changes to the way they work incur both cost and benefit.  This people change needs to be well managed, so by ensuring that you capture the end to end process when developing your requirements you are assisting with the Change Impact Assessment.  Again, for your readers it shows them what has and hasn’t been considered, in case they are aware of other important items that have not been considered in developing the requirements.

5. Be thorough

I cannot stress this enough.  Taking the time to write detailed requirements, or a strong business case are as valuable to the end outcome of the project as delivering the project itself.  A detailed set of business requirements developed via a thorough approach provide clarity, understanding and the foundation for the project to be delivered.  This saves cost, allows decisions to be made around available options, and ensures that there are no risks that will surface when a piece of the business process that is critical is uncovered part way through the project, when it was missed in requirements gathering.

Your business owner and the stakeholders in the project will value the time and effort that is taken to deliver to them detailed business requirements.  The value will more than be returned in the delivery of successful project outcomes.


Written by Karen Munro