project planning diary

Business Requirements: How Can They Make A Project More Functional?

Making a project functional is no easy task. Projects are lengthy and complicated, with numerous tasks and countless strict deadlines.

Imagine you start a project. How do you know the process to ensure a successful project? How do you know exactly what the project entails? How do you know what is required to make the project a success?

Imagine you’re a program manager in charge of multiple projects – the tasks become 10 times harder!

These questions can be answered through business requirements and, more specifically – a business requirements document (BRD).

These can make a project more functional by providing essential information about what the project should achieve and how it should be achieved.

In this article, we will discuss what business requirements are in further detail, the benefits of using a business requirements document, and how using business requirements can make a project more functional.

Let’s get started!

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What are Business Requirements?

To answer the question of business requirements, we must first understand the definition of a requirement. A requirement can be defined as a singular characteristic or capability that is mandatory for a system, product, or service to possess.

Let’s take it a little step further to define a business requirement. Business requirements are those specific requirements for a business system, product, or service to be effective. We’ll explore it further by examining what a business requirements document looks like. 

What is a Business Requirements Document?

A Business Requirements Document, often abbreviated as BRD, is an integral component of project management. The BRD is a comprehensive document that outlines all the necessary information about what a project should achieve and the specific steps to achieve it.

BRD vs. Project Management Plan

While it shares similarities with a project management plan, a BRD contains some key differences. For example, while both documents provide a roadmap for a project, a BRD is more focused on the project’s ‘why’ and ‘what,’ while a project management plan typically delves into the ‘how’ and ‘when.’

Components of a BRD: Functional and Non-functional Requirements

A well-crafted BRD should encompass both functional and non-functional requirements. Functional requirements focus on the system’s behavior, such as the tasks and activities the system must perform. In contrast, non-functional requirements relate to the system’s performance, such as reliability, efficiency, and security.

For instance, in developing a mobile banking application, a functional requirement could be that the app must allow users to check their account balance, transfer money to other accounts, and pay bills online. Each of these functions represents a specific action that the system must be able to execute.

For this project, non-functional requirements could include:

  • Reliability: The app should have an uptime of 99.9%, meaning it should be accessible and functioning correctly almost all the time.
  • Efficiency: The app should load user account information within 2 seconds of the request.
  • Security: The app must encrypt user data to protect against unauthorized access.

By outlining functional and nonfunctional requirements in the BRD, you can ensure that the end product or system meets the user’s expectations and the standards of operation.

Additional Information in a BRD

Beyond the functional and non-functional requirements, a BRD also includes additional information critical for the successful completion of the project. This could cover areas and more requirements in business such as:

  • Project timelines: Key milestones, deadlines, and schedules.
  • Budget restrictions: Financial constraints that could affect the project’s execution.
  • Identified risks: Potential challenges or obstacles that could hinder the project, along with mitigation strategies.

The Role of a BRD in Project Management

The role of a BRD in project management is vital. It’s a reference tool that provides your team guidance, direction, and clarity throughout the project lifecycle. 

By clearly defining the project’s scope and objectives, a BRD helps ensure that all team members are on the same page and working towards the same goals. This alignment helps to avoid misunderstandings, increases efficiency, and ultimately contributes to the successful delivery of the project.

Key Elements of a Business Requirements Document

While the complexity and length of a business requirement documentation can vary depending on the project, certain elements remain fundamental across all projects. Let’s delve into these elements in more detail.

1. Executive Summary

The Executive Summary concisely overviews the project and its primary objectives. It sets the tone for the rest of the document and offers a snapshot of the project. When drafting the Executive Summary, you might want to include the following:

  • A brief description of the project and its purpose.
  • The main objectives or goals of the project.
  • A high-level overview of the business requirements.

2. List of Stakeholders

Knowing who the stakeholders are is crucial for successful project execution. This section in your business requirement documentation should enumerate all key individuals or groups with a vested interest in the project. In outlining the List of Stakeholders, consider including:

  • The names and roles of each stakeholder.
  • The responsibilities assigned to each stakeholder.
  • Contact information for each stakeholder, facilitating easy communication.

3. Detailed Business Requirements

This is the heart of the BRD, where you present a comprehensive list of what needs to be done. This section must be as detailed as possible to ensure clarity and expectations are met. When detailing the Business Requirements, include the following:

  • A clear and concise description of each business requirement.
  • The expected outcomes or benefits of each requirement.
  • Any specific parameters or constraints for each requirement.

4. Project Timeline

The Project Timeline offers a schedule for when each task should be completed and who is responsible for it. This component helps keep everyone on track and ensure the project progresses as planned. When outlining the Project Timeline, you may want to include:

  • Key milestones and their respective deadlines.
  • The names of individuals or teams responsible for each task.
  • Any dependencies between tasks, if applicable.

5. List of Risks and Issues

It’s essential to be aware of potential problems during the project. This section should highlight any identified risks and issues, their possible impact and planned mitigation strategies. In the List of Risks and Issues, consider outlining the following:

  • A description of each risk or issue.
  • The potential impact on the project if the risk materializes or an issue occurs.
  • Mitigation strategies or contingency plans for each risk or issue.

By including these key elements in your BRD, you provide a roadmap that guides your team through the project, ensuring everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals.

Example of a Business Requirements Document

To truly comprehend the structure and content of a Business Requirements Document (BRD), it is helpful to examine a practical example. For this purpose, let’s consider a hypothetical BRD for developing a new software application for a sales team to track customer orders.

1. Example of Executive Summary

This project aims to develop a software application that facilitates the tracking of customer orders by the sales team. The new application aims to streamline order management, improve sales efficiency, and enhance customer experience.

2. Example of List of Stakeholders

Critical stakeholders for this project include the Sales Team (end-users of the application), the Project Manager (overseeing the project), Software Developers (building the application), and the IT Support Team (providing technical support).

3. Example of Detailed Business Requirements

The software application must possess several key functionalities to fulfill its intended purpose:

  • Customer profile creation: The application should enable users to create new customer profiles, capturing essential details like name, contact information, order history, and preferences.
  • Order input: Users should be able to input new customer orders into the system, specifying product type, quantity, price, and delivery date.
  • Order management: The application should allow users to view and update existing customer orders, enabling modifications like product changes, quantity adjustments, or delivery date shifts.
  • Report generation: The application must be capable of generating reports on customer orders, providing comprehensive insights into sales performance, product popularity, and customer buying trends.

4. Example of Project Timeline

The software development project is planned to span six months, beginning in January and concluding in June. Specific milestones include system design completion by February, initial development completion by April, testing and debugging in May, and final deployment in June.

5. Example of List of Risks and Issues

Potential risks for this project could include software development delays, budget overruns, or unmet user expectations. Mitigation strategies include regular progress reviews, careful budget management, and ongoing stakeholder consultation.

This example encapsulates both functional and non-functional requirements. The functional requirements are the specific tasks or activities the application must perform (customer profile creation, order input, order management, and report generation). The non-functional requirement is the report generation feature, which pertains to the system’s performance and the quality of the user experience.

Benefits of Using a Business Requirements Document

Let’s take a deeper dive into the top 5 benefits of using a business requirements document:

1. Helps to Ensure that all Stakeholders are on the Same Page

When working on a project, all stakeholders must be aware of what is required to succeed.

By having a business requirements document, you can ensure that everyone involved in the project understands the goals, objectives, and expectations.

This can lead to avoiding any misunderstandings or miscommunications that could cause problems further down the line.

2. Provides a Clear Overview of the Project

The business requirements document should contain all the essential information required for the project to be completed successfully. This helps ensure that everyone involved in the project understands what needs to be done, and how it should be done.

3. Helps to Identify any Potential Risks

By identifying these risks early on, you can then take steps to mitigate them or even avoid them altogether. This reduces the chances of problems further along the project lifecycle.

4. Facilitates Better Decision Making

Using a business requirements document helps gather all of the essential information about the project in one place. You can utilize the information to decide how best to proceed with the project.

5. Makes Changes Easier to Manage

As projects often have strict deadlines, any changes that need to be made must be managed effectively. A business requirements document can help with this by providing a clear overview of what has been changed, and why it has been changed. This can then be used as a reference point if there are any questions or queries about the changes that have been made.

Leveraging Business Requirements Software

Business Requirements Software, sometimes known as Requirements Management Software, is designed to simplify the process of gathering, organizing, and tracking project requirements. Let’s delve into how these tools can be beneficial.

1. Efficiency and Accuracy in Requirement Gathering

Business Requirement Software tools often come with features like templates and guides that help structure the BRD. These tools also provide functionalities for inputting requirements systematically and standardized, reducing the likelihood of missing crucial details and improving the accuracy of the documented requirements.

2. Collaboration and Communication

Such software solutions can foster collaboration by providing a centralized platform where all stakeholders can view, comment, and edit requirements. This encourages real-time communication and collaboration among team members, ensuring everyone is on the same page and contributing their insights.

3. Change Management

Change is inevitable in any project, and managing these changes can make a significant difference in project outcomes. Business Requirement Software can track changes in requirements, maintain versions, and provide visibility into what was changed, when, and by whom. This ensures that all stakeholders know about changes and can adapt their work accordingly.

4. Traceability and Accountability

Business Requirement Software can link requirements to specific project elements, creating a traceability matrix that helps understand the impact of changes to requirements. Additionally, by assigning ownership for each requirement, the software helps foster accountability among team members.

5. Integration with Other Project Management Tools

Many Business Requirement Software solutions can integrate with other project management tools, creating a seamless flow of information across different project stages. This can enhance overall project management efficiency and ensure the requirements are always aligned with project planning and execution.

How do Real-life Companies use Business Requirements Effectively?

Many companies use business requirements to aid their project’s functionality, but how do they use them? Let’s take a look at a few examples.

One company that uses business requirements is Google. They have a dedicated team of Business Analysts responsible for creating and maintaining their BRDs.

This team works closely with other teams within Google, such as product managers and engineers, to ensure everyone is on the same page and that the project stays on track.

Another company that makes use of business requirements is Amazon. They have a similar process to Google, where they also have a dedicated team of Business Analysts who are responsible for BRDs.

Facebook also uses business requirements. However, they have a different approach as they do not have a dedicated team of Business Analysts. Instead, they have what is known as a “Product Requirements Document” (PRD).

The product managers create this document and outline the requirements for the product. The engineers then use this document to build the product.

Challenges in Creating and Using Business Requirements

Creating and using business requirements can be a complex process fraught with challenges. Here are some of the common issues encountered:

  1. Vague or ambiguous requirements: The lack of clarity in defining requirements in business can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and, eventually, a product that does not meet the stakeholders’ expectations.
  2. Changing requirements: As projects progress, business requirements often evolve. Managing these changes effectively to prevent project delays or cost overruns can be challenging.
  3. Stakeholder engagement: Ensuring consistent and effective communication with all stakeholders to accurately gather and verify requirements can be difficult, especially in large or complex projects.
  4. Balancing technical and business perspectives: It can be challenging to bridge the gap between technical teams and business stakeholders, leading to a disconnect between what is technically feasible and what the business needs.
  5. Documenting and tracking requirements: Maintaining comprehensive, up-to-date documentation of business requirements, particularly in fast-paced or changing environments, can be a daunting task.

These challenges underscore the need for clear communication, effective change management, and suitable tools and techniques to manage business requirements.

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Final Thoughts

Business requirements are a crucial part of any project. They can ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page, provide a clear roadmap for the project, and improve communication between all parties involved.

Many companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook use business requirements. Each company has its process for using business requirements, but they all share the same goal: to make the project more functional.

In conclusion, business requirements are a vital part of any project management planning. They can ensure that the project is more functional by providing essential information about what needs to be done and how it should be done.

A well-written business requirements document can make all the difference in the success of a project. When you’re looking to begin a new project, ensure that business requirements – and, therefore, a business requirements document – are close to the top of your to-do list!