Requirements Gathering: A Quick Guide

Updated Oct 15, 2022.

Some factors can frustrate a project manager during project implementation and affect the project's quality. Every project has functional and nonfunctional requirements and needs that are vital to making the project successful.

The availability of essential project requirements will guarantee how smoothly the project team will execute the project plan and establish project goals.

Every project’s requirement-gathering process is the project manager's responsibility, key stakeholders, and team members. The requirement-gathering process makes it easy to outline a project's exact requirements.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about requirements gathering in project management.

Let’s get started

What is Requirements Gathering?

Requirements gathering in project management is a systematic process of determining all the requirements, necessities, or needs of a project.

In other words, requirements gathering is a way the project defines everything that the project team would require to execute successfully. It involves creating a requirement checklist for a project.

One benefit of requirement gathering is that it affords you a comprehensive approach to project planning.

Project requirements fall into two types:

  • Business requirements describe the goals of the project.
  • Technical requirements describe the best method for executing the project.

These requirements are gathered during the project's initiation phase (project planning phase). Since changes will occur to these project requirements, project managers must closely monitor them through the project timeline.

Project management software like, ClickUp, Wrike, and Teamwork are helpful with the requirements gathering process. These project management software tools can simplify and automate the process.

What is a Requirements Document?

A requirements document is a detailed document that explains what the project manager requires for the project. The product vision is one of the vital things a requirement document displays and how the manager would accomplish the vision.

Every requirements document does not include in-depth details on how the team will deliver the product vision, why the product is needed, and what problem the product is solving.

Simple Project Requirement Template
Source: Smartsheet

Why is Requirements Gathering Important?

Requirement gathering is crucial in project management because it helps maintain order in the project process. Apart from maintaining order, requirement gathering offers various benefits to project managers in ensuring that projects as executed successfully.

Here are some benefits of requirement gathering.

1. Improves Stakeholder Satisfaction

As a project manager, one of the ways you can make your stakeholders happy and improve their satisfaction is by following through with an effective requirements-gathering process.

By following through with the gathering process, you will certainly provide more on-target project deliverables, resulting in the entire project's success.

2. Increase Project Success Rate

Adequate preparation prevents poor performance. With requirements gathering, a project manager is knowledgeable about the essentials to ensure the project process is completed successfully and potential risks the project could encounter.

You can make the necessary adjustments with this knowledge to increase the project's success rate.

3. Reduces Project Cost

One factor that greatly increases project cost is project risk, which the project may encounter during execution. With requirements gathering, you can successfully avoid these risks, which will result in you reducing cost and helps to stay within budget.

Requirements Gathering Process
Source: PowerSlides

Key Challenges of Requirements Gathering that Can Affect the Entire Project

Most projects experience failure due to requirements gathering because it is a tough job filled with certain challenges that can prevent it from being optimized.

Here are some of these key challenges encountered during requirements gathering.

1. Finding All the Right Stakeholders

Most project stakeholders are hidden. Having hidden stakeholders means that the project manager may not know certain stakeholders involved in a project execution process. The best response to this factor is to uncover these stakeholders.

You must realize that the people in the group involved in the project should be more than just the major decision-makers.

Talking to customer support reps and maintenance is advisable to uncover these hidden stakeholders.

You must go through several iterations of your process to reach a consensus. The product users are technicians, customers, and those who come into direct contact with the product.

Discovering and getting these hidden stakeholders involved in the project process is one of the key issues of requirements gathering.

Internal and External Stakeholders
Source: ProjectPundit

2. Having A Clear Understanding of What Stakeholders Want

In most cases, stakeholders do not have a solid understanding of their needs. They may not be effective in communicating what they want from a product.

Stakeholders may have certain assumptions, pain points, unstated goals, and desires they wish to satisfy. You will get this information from them by probing their minds through specific questions and comparing your answers.

Finally, you will have to go through several iterations of your process to arrive at a perfect point from where you can take strategic actions.

3. Planning for Change

During the requirement gathering process, you will encounter questions you did not ask, certain important pieces of information, and things stakeholders did not tell you. You will encounter shifting priorities and other issues during implementation.

A wise move is to devise a new project plan to adjust to these changes. You will need to allot specific time to deal with these issues, document new requirements, and conduct additional reviews.

Requirements Gathering Process

Gathering requirements is very important for the success of any given project. Do it most appropriately and measurably possible to get the best results.

Here are four main ways you can gather requirements.

1. Appoint and Assign Roles to Project Team Members

As the manager, you must assign a specific role to each project team member.

This process has three steps to follow, and they include:

  • The team must know you and your role.
  • You should ensure that everyone clearly understands their given role and its importance to the entire project and give you regular updates.
  • Identify relevant stakeholders who would brainstorm, analyze, approve or deny project updates.

Key stakeholders include customers, team leads, department managers, board members, business partners, and manufacturers. Their opinion about the project is valuable to its success.

2. Interview Key Stakeholders

You will have to interview the identified stakeholders and ask relevant questions concerning the project requirements to create effective requirements gathering template.

These questions include:

  • What are your plans for the product update?
  • What is your project’s key goal?
  • What do you want the product to do that it currently lacks?
  • What is the feature that got you interested in the product?
  • Which areas or features do you recommend changes in the product?
  • What are the key tools required for project success?
  • What are the key project concerns?

3. Gathering and Documentation

Documenting every detail is crucial for a successful project. Record every answer the stakeholders give and create an easily accessible system where others can take advantage of the information collected during the requirement gathering phase.

The requirements documentation process will make reflecting on past project failures and successes easier. Documentation will help manage stakeholder expectations and keep other team members focused on the project goal.

4. Create a Clear List of All Expectations and Requirements

After properly documenting expectations and objectives, the next step is creating a cohesive requirements management plan that is measurable, quantifiable, and actionable.

There are key questions you need to ask to help you create a clear list of expectations and requirements:

  • How long is the project timeline duration?
  • Who are the key stakeholders involved in the project?
  • Is there any risk that can occur during the requirements gathering process?
  • What is the primary goal of understanding the project’s requirements?

After getting the answers you require from these questions and stakeholders to provide feedback, you will have a detailed map of your requirements which you will present to the stakeholders.

5. Monitor Progress

To ensure that the project risks stay low, having a reliable method to monitor and track requirements across all teams is important.

Another important factor is feedback. You can report project progress to stakeholders, department managers, and other team members from the data generated to ensure the project stays on track based on time, scope, and budget.

Use project status reports and other project management reports to help monitor your project’s progress.

Status Report Template
Source: ProjectManager

Requirements Gathering Techniques

Gathering requirements requires certain techniques that the manager must apply for effectiveness. These techniques work hand in hand and do not function in isolation.

To effectively gather requirements, you must apply all the necessary techniques.

1. Use Case Scenarios

A use case is a document with detailed information on how users will perform tasks on your product.

The language of the document is from a user’s perspective, and it includes certain steps like:

  • Who is the user of the product?
  • What hopes does the user intend to derive from the product?
  • The user’s goal
  • The steps you take to accomplish their tasks
  • Products’ response to user’s action

2. Brainstorming

Organize a brainstorming session with a focus group and give them a chance to air their views about the product. During the session, appoint a facilitator to lead the participants, and explain the purpose of the session to them.

Ensure that they are all free to contribute, provide as many useful ideas as possible, and do not argue or debate what they have to say. After the session, organize their responses and prioritize them.

3. Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is another effective technique for gathering ideas. What you do is simply create a mind map, which is done by placing the central idea in the center of the page.

After this, you can use lines or arrows to pinpoint the central idea and other ideas. Mind maps effectively come up with innovations and help map out project requirements.

Requirements Gathering Tools

The tools used to gather requirements are vital during the requirements gathering process. They will determine if you can effectively analyze and understand the success or failure of the project at its completion.

1. Requirements Document

The first tool you will require is a place to store the requirements document. Create a system where other users could easily access the available application information.

A requirements document breaks down the information your team members need through user stories and innovative features to make it more accessible.

2. Time Tracking Software

Use time tracking software to track each team member's time. Check how much time is needed to achieve tasks on the previous project. With this information, you can determine how long it will take them to accomplish your new projects.

3. Effective Requirements Gathering Template

You can download a requirement gathering template, which will help everyone involved in the project. Templates make the requirements gathering process, business, user, and system requirements easier.

Easy accessibility of the tools from multiple locations and devices is crucial. Sending updates, communicating, and sending feedback should be easy to ensure that the process goes as planned.

Common Requirements Gathering Pitfalls

1. Making Assumptions About the Information Acquired

Have a clear understanding of requirements to ensure you get the right thing. Do not assume that all your stakeholders have the same perspective about the requirements.

Get stakeholder approval and feedback, and use this information to adjust the project timeline accordingly.

Do not entertain general or vague requirements. Ensure that you carefully scrutinize general requirements to come up with verifiable requirements that everyone can agree on and accept.

2. Focusing on ‘HOW’ Instead of ‘WHAT’

There are two main aspects of requirements:

  • What the product must do (functional requirements)
  • How the product does it (non-functional requirements)

Project requirements should not focus on how the product does what it has to do. When you want to elicit requirements, you do not have to bother about how you want to implement the product but pay close attention to the stakeholders' needs.

Requirements elicitation is requesting and gathering top-level information from key project stakeholders.

Before making any major moves, listen to your various stakeholders involved and use this information to determine what aspect of the product requires adjustment and implement this information.

3. Insufficient Consultation With Stakeholders

You must consult stakeholders first before the requirements-gathering process commences.

Stakeholder consultation has several facets.

  • Follow up on stakeholders to fully understand their needs. Ignoring this results in requirements failure.
  • Share your finding after every interview, meeting, and survey. Ensure that you share your findings on the project’s requirements after every meeting with stakeholders and encourage feedback from them.
  • Insufficient reviews can also be a major pitfall. To avoid this, ensure you hold review meetings with stakeholders where they can review requirements, provide feedback, voice objections, and defend their positions.
  • Get all your stakeholders to sign off on requirements. Ensure the stakeholders understand the requirements and consent to proceed with the project.

Requirements Gathering for Agile Development

Here is a list of things that makes requirement gathering different for agile.

  • Speed: Agile teams are known to be fast, which means their requirement management solutions must be in sync with the expectation of their developers regarding speed. Project management software helps agile teams streamline requirements gathering and supports real-time.
  • Transparency Regarding Requirements Documentation: While documenting requirements, it must be constantly updated, traceable, and easily annotated.

Best Practices for Requirements Gathering

Gathering requirements is, most of the time, tasking. But there are ways you can gather requirements efficiently and effectively.

1. Reinforce the Project Goal

Focus on the project goal when gathering requirements. Focusing on your project’s goals helps you properly prioritize what requirements are important.

2. Focus on the Right Stakeholders

Focus on your key stakeholders, both external and internal stakeholders. The product primarily impacts these stakeholders, and because of this, they are in the best position to give you the right information.

3. Leave Enough Time

You need sufficient time to do a thorough job is important when gathering requirements. Do not rush the process.

4. Summarize and Confirm Your Understanding

Make no assumptions. Assumptions could be dangerous, especially when it comes to project requirements. Ensure you clearly understand the information you get from different stakeholders so you will not gather the wrong requirements.

5. Remember that Requirements Gathering is an Iterative Process

The most thorough gathering process still has loops where certain needs are not mentioned. With this in mind, you must make adjustments and updates during the project lifecycle.

Remember to build in time throughout your project lifecycle for ongoing requirements gathering and management.

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Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.