Incomplete or changing requirements may be the result of inadequate scope definition, which can effect IT project success. In one of my previous blogs, I discussed the importance of “Scope Definition”. However no matter how well you define the scope, I found that it will be incomplete and there will be changes as the IT project unfolds.
Every project failure comes from a seemingly unique problem. In my experience, for most projects, the problem may be unique but the source of the problem stays the same…
Unwillingness (or inability) to adapt to a constantly changing reality
Research shows that 71% of software projects fail because of poor requirements management. The Standish CHAOS Report, which surveyed 9,236 IT projects, found that the top three causes of project failure were lack of user input, incomplete requirements or changing requirements.
That is why proper documentation of requirements is so critical. You should expect that your initial requirements will change. They will and because they will change, you need to create “flexible” requirements where change is easily identified and appropriate adjustments can be made. Once you have accurate requirements, the identification of problems and issues becomes more obvious.
Based on the fact that initial requirements will be incomplete and subject to change during the project life cycle, you need to manage the project requirements documentation. During the delivery phase of the project, the project requirements document serves a number of project needs:
- Defines the project
- Provides a framework to track the project progress
- Enables the project team to monitor the project objectives
- It is a living document that changes as the project progresses
As the project unfolds, requirements change and new requirements will come to light. This process needs to be managed and it is a continual process throughout the project life cycle. Keeping the requirements up to date will make it easier to identify the impact of unforeseen changes. It is like a coach who will call a time out or talk to his players during half time to make sure that the initial game strategy is still working or needs to be changed.
It is not unusual for the project team to focus on delivering tasks (coding) and treat everything else as a waste of time. Focusing on delivering tasks at the expense of managing the requirements process will have a negative impact on the project’s success. This practice usually leads to some form of project failure. You cannot achieve IT project success without a solid requirements plan that includes the ability to manage changes.
What can you do to minimize the impact of changing requirements?
Keeping the requirements up to date will make it easier to identify the impact of unforeseen change.
Fortunately there are a few simple things you can do to help create and manage the project requirements:
- Use one of any number of software products available on the internet specifically designed to create and manage project requirements.
- Use the Agile project management techniques to help deal with the changes and additions.
- Use the services of highly trained business analysts to create the IT project requirements
While these tools will help to create a more adaptable project delivery process, they are not the complete solution. The solution is a combination of the above and a change of attitude. In fact, my experience has been that a change in attitude is the foundation to adaptability. Be willing to abandon your most dearly held belief if it proves to be false. Do not cling to outdated information and goals. Be on the lookout for changes occurring and quickly adapt.
“It takes the right attitude to accept this new reality and find a way to adapt, before your project becomes extinct.”