If you look at any online article outlining the common problems throughout software development, the requirements gathering process is always highlighted. Requirements gathering is an essential part of any project, but it can easily become a challenging endeavor. According to this report, 80% of rework can be traced to requirements defects. This blog post will demonstrate why requirements gathering challenges can lead to overruns.
Defining the requirements is one of the most time-consuming tasks for software developers. This entails determining what the product should accomplish and how it should operate. So developers know what they must do, the requirements must be precise, clear, and comprehensive. Unfortunately, it might be challenging to understand what is needed and even more challenging to translate that into clear directions. If these criteria are not clearly stated, the developers may become confused and frustrated, which will ultimately cause the project to be delayed.
Miscommunication between the stakeholders and the development team can lead to misunderstandings and errors in the requirements. This can result in the development team building features that are not actually needed, not well defined in detail or even conflicting with other requirements. This can lead to time and cost overruns.
Miscommunication can not only happen between a stakeholder and developers but can happen stakeholder to stakeholder if multiple people are driving the requirements of a system. For example an HR department may define requirements for a new system but Finance have requirements for the system which might conflict with these requirements.
The needs and expectations of stakeholders can change over the course of a project. If the development team is not notified of these changes, they may continue to work on outdated requirements, leading to wasted effort and cost overruns when eventually the new needs are communicated. Also we may find that stakeholders may be subject to the ‘now I see it I would like to change something.’ Requirements can be large and complex and some stakeholders only pay detailed attention when they see some implementation of the system. This is why wireframes and prototypes can be useful to reduce requirement changes.
Incomplete or ambiguous requirements
If the requirements are not clearly defined, the development team may have to spend additional time and effort trying to understand them. This can lead to delays and cost overruns. Making sure requirements are complete is an almost impossible problem to solve as it’s difficult to spot things that have not been included. However the use of tools like our requirement gathering software, Requiment, or templates can attempt to reduce the fact that requirements can be missed.
Lack of stakeholder involvement
If the stakeholders are not actively involved in the requirements gathering process, they may not have a clear understanding of the project’s scope and objectives. This can result in unrealistic expectations and misunderstandings, leading to cost overruns.
A common problem we often see is managers who are involved in specifying a new system. They decide not to involve the staff whose job they will help automate and when the system is delivered then the stakeholders find the system is not fit for purpose. It pays to involve as wide a group of stakeholders as possible and not assume that you know how people will undertake their job using a new system.
Focusing on visual aspects rather than functional
Stakeholders and end users frequently have a distinct vision of how the new solution should appear but lack comprehension of what it should accomplish. Any system’s user interface is a crucial component, but it shouldn’t limit or impair functioning. Whilst prototypes and wireframes can be useful to allow visualization of the system it is important to document the functional and non-functional requirements that can’t be captured in a screen image.
Read more on ‘The Benefits of Using Wireframes in Software Requirements Gathering,’ in our other blog post.
Now that we know why requirements gathering challenges can lead to overruns. It is crucial to know how to avoid and prevent these. It is important to have effective communication and collaboration between the stakeholders and the development team, and to ensure that the requirements are clearly defined and well-documented.
Read our ‘Complete Guide to Requirements Gathering in 2023‘ for more!