Business Requirements Are the Foundation of a BA’s Success

Teams sometimes gloss over a project’s business requirements in their haste to begin development. They do this at their peril, and it’s often up to the business analyst to lead them away from danger.

Presenting Business PlanThe term “business requirement” describes a need that leads to one or more projects meant to deliver solutions and result in desired business outcomes. Business opportunities, business objectives, success metrics and a vision statement are key elements. Without them, it’s impossible to clearly decide what should and should not be included in the solution.

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These documents are precursors to functional and non-functional requirements, since they force the resolution of a project’s issues and scope. The business requirements provide a reference for making decisions about proposed requirement changes and enhancements. Display these in every elicitation session so the team can quickly judge whether a proposal is in or out of scope for a given release or development iteration.

Identifying Desired Business Benefits

Business requirements set the context for — and enable the measurement of — the benefits an organization hopes to achieve from a project. Companies shouldn’t initiate any project without a clear understanding of the value it will add to their business. They need to set targets with business objectives, then define success metrics that allow them to measure whether their teams are on track to meet them.

The specifics might come from funding sponsors, executives, marketing managers or product visionaries. However, identifying and communicating the business benefits can be a challenge. Here’s where business analysts come in: They can help ensure that the right stakeholders are setting the business requirements, and can facilitate the elicitation of needs, their prioritization, and resolution of conflicts.

The business benefit has to represent true value for the project’s sponsors and the product’s customers. For example, simply merging two systems into one isn’t a reasonable business objective. Customers don’t care if they’re using an application that involves one, five or 10 systems. They care about issues like increasing revenue and decreasing costs. Merging two systems might be part of the solution, but it’s rarely a true business objective.

Product Vision and Project Scope

Two core elements of a business requirement are the product vision and the project scope. The product vision describes the final product that will achieve the business objectives. This may serve as either a complete or partial solution. The vision describes what the product is about and what it ultimately could become. The project scope identifies what portion of the ultimate product vision the current project or iteration will address. The statement of scope also draws the boundary between what’s in and what’s out for this project or iteration.

These would be the two most important documents to complete before creating the business requirements. Once the BA has these solidified and agreed upon by all parties involved, the chances of success are high because there is a clear path toward the project’s goal.

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