A critical analysis step is a formal review of the requirements.  This blog will not cover how to conduct a formal review in detail, but the importance of a formal requirements review vs. a more typical, non-formal review which is common among project teams.

Often project teams do conduct a requirements review, but there is no formal structure behind the review.  The review tends to consist of the following:

  1. The requirements are distributed to the project team for review.
  2. A 1-2 hour meeting is scheduled to discuss questions and feedback from the team.  Hopefully the requirements are reviewed prior to the meeting.
  3. The Business Analyst (BA) makes necessary updates then re-distributes to the team.

On the surface this sounds good enough.  The team had time to review the requirements, have questions answered, and provide feedback to the BA on additional requirements that need to be gathered.

But, there is a major flaw in this type of meeting.  The meeting focuses on questions from the team members.  There may not be many questions from the team because everyone believes they understand the requirements.  Does the entire team have the same understanding of each requirement?  For instance, let’s say there is a requirement for a meal order system to validate that the patron selects three balanced meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).  The BA understands this to be that the meals meet dietary guidelines for a balanced diet.  The developer understands this as all of the meals need to weigh the same.  Everyone understands the requirement, but they have different interpretations.  This may not have been caught until later in the project when the cost to fix the problem increases.

A formal review should be conducted in the following manner:

  1. Schedule time of participants
  2. Deliver review materials
  3. Review of materials by participants prior to the session
  4. Conduct review session
  5. Record review notes
  6. Update material
  7. Conduct second review session if necessary

In a formal review there are two major advantages over a non-formal review:

  1. Each requirement is discussed to ensure consistent interpretation of each requirement by the team. The balanced meal requirement would have been clarified.
  2. Notes are recorded in a consistent manner to help teams reduce the re occurrence of defects in the requirements .  This will improve the quality of the requirements over time.

A formal review will take longer than a non-formal review, but we all know it is cheaper to discover and resolve issues earlier in a project than later.  Take some extra time to make sure all parties are truly in agreement with the requirements before the solution is being designed and implemented.  Over time, the quality of the requirements should improve reducing the time to conduct the requirements review.

Please share your comments on successful and unsuccessful requirement reviews. For more information on formal reviews or to learn how to improve your stakeholder engagement with reviews, check out our Facilitation a Requirements Workshop.

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