capture business requirements

How to capture business requirements

To capture good business requirements is not easy.
One of the hardest things to do well is capture business requirements.  Why?  Because most people go into solution mode and provide solution requirements, not requirements that articulate the business process.

Going into solution mode creates confusion about what is really required to fulfil the businesses need.  In solution mode you also miss out on capturing the real fundamentals of the process you are wanting to replicate or replace.

Business Requirements should not be written by vendors. Why? Because they will write the requirements to match their particular system. Good salespeople will ALWAYS have the solution to meet your requirements, which is not a good outcome for the business.

But what sort of process works well to actually capture your requirements?  The most beneficial process I’ve found begins with process maps, or people who use the process daily. Developing your requirements this way means you end up with actual requirements which are clear and easy for vendors to work with.  They will thank you for the clarity and ease with with they are able to deliver what you want.

The 7 Steps to Capture Business Requirements are

1. Locate any existing process maps

Do you have your business process documented anywhere?  Pull them out and do a quick review to see if they are current. Whilst capturing your requirements note the areas in your maps that will require an update.  If not, then don’t worry, because in capturing your requirements you will be able to create them.

2. Whiteboard or Laptop

Make sure you have either a white board, or a laptop handy.  I’ve found that either method works well in writing things down as you think of them.  Both methods also easily allow you to revise areas that you’ve already captured as your thinking turns more to your requirements.

3. Subject Matter Expert (SME)

Ensure you have an SME or SME’s in the room who knows, understands, and uses the process. This is very important. It’s no good having someone defining your requirements if they don’t fully understand what the desired outcome is.  Why would I expect a Director to tell me the detailed requirements for a system that Administrative staff will be using to capture client call information?  Doesn’t make sense does it!

4. Take your time

Rushing to capture requirements is not worth it.  You will inadvertently fall back into the trap of going into solution mode, which is very easy to do. I know from many experiences in working with the business that it is the normal way of thinking and not easy to shake off. If you come from this base you’ll miss some of the smaller and more important details which mean that your system is ‘not quite right’ or ‘not quite fit for purpose’ which is a shame and defeats the purpose of spending the time on requirements gathering.

5. Start with high level requirements

Now start at the high level and capture your requirements.  To do this your statements would be something like:

  • the ability to capture client information
    • You don’t need to detail what type of information needs to be captured at this point.  That will be covered in the high level requirements.
  • the ability to capture requests for quotes
    • The details of what needs to be captured in order to have this information will be covered within your high level requirements.
  • the ability to report on number of requests for quotes received.
    • What you want in your report will be spelled out specifically in the detailed requirements that you’re create next.

You can see that by starting with these high level statements you are starting to capture the nature of your requirements and this creates a starting point to then take each of these statements and delve into the detail of what that actually means from a system perspective.

6. Create a more efficient process as you go

You may be surprised that even in this first gathering process, how much additional information you find out about what it is that you really need.  Forget about existing systems, and in a way even your process.  Think outside the box about the possibilities of making the process that you’re looking at as efficient as possible.  Are there steps in your current process which could be streamlined by the use of a system?

Can you combine steps and capture more information in the first step to make things easier later on.  Aim high.  You will have the ability to determine through this process the ‘must have’ items and those that are ‘nice to have’ and that may have to wait until a later version or iteration of your system.  This improvements process is a side benefit of creating detailed and well thought out business requirements.

7. Circulate your first draft

Document the information gathered and then circulate it to the stakeholders and SME’s involved.  Give them a day or so to review these initial requirements.  You are sure to find other items that come up and need to be added, or statements that can be refined.  Once you have a reviewed/revised list you are now ready to delve into the detail.

Here’s how to capture your detailed business requirements.