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Defining Project Requirements


Requirements define the work expected to be performed on a project. When well-defined requirements are not available, the project team will have questions during the execution phase, leading to quality issues, cost overruns, missed deadlines, confusion, a high level of risk, a lot of rework, and ultimately, an unhappy customer. To avoid this problem, it is important to the project’s overall success that the project manager have a good plan in place to define and handle requirements and that the plan is executed well.

The first step to defining the requirements is to have a clear description of the project scope. The scope provides the boundaries that clarify what the project is and is not intended to accomplish. By establishing these boundaries, the project manager provides the project team with the guidance they need to determine which requirements are needed in addition to understanding how they will define and validate the requirements.

It is important that the scope be as detailed as possible. The more information that is available to the project team in the scope statement, the easier it is for them to define the requirements for the final product. If the scope statement is too general, the team loses the benefits of working within the project boundaries, which results in confusion and lack of focus. The project manager should define the scope so that the requirements flow logically from the scope.

Using the scope, the requirements create a outline for the project work. This outline will eventually become work breakdown structure (WBS) for the project. To develop the WBS, the project team must identify and define the requirements. Creating the outline and defining the requirements in the outline will take the entire project team, as well as other outside resources such as customers, operations, and other stakeholders. The project team and project manager should ensure each project stakeholder is involved as the project moves from a scope statement to the defined requirements that will create the WBS for the project schedule. Depending on the complexity of the project, it could be a time-consuming effort. It is important to pay attention to detail because this outline affects the entire project. It is critical to the project’s and the team’s success to get it right.

Planning for and defining the requirements is not the end of the process. To ensure the project team has taken everything into consideration and has accounted for all the necessary requirements, others will be called in to verify the results of the team’s work. Management, customers, line staff, operations staff, contracts, and pricing analysts are examples of some of the outside resources called on to verify that the requirements are accurate and defined correctly. It is common practice for these stakeholders to sign off on the requirements after verifying and approving them.

Getting approval and sign off on the requirements is rarely the end of the process. It not uncommon for the process to be repeated during the execution phase of the project, such as when a customer revises expectations and project scope. The project team should be prepared to go back through the entire process of defining requirements.