New Research Uncovers Five Top Issues that Lead to Requirements Problems

It seems that the problem of challenged projects isn’t getting any better. Respondents to a recent survey indicated 62 percent of organizations experienced one or more challenges in over 30 percent of projects. Given the number of software and other critical projects that go over budget, get delivered late, or don’t meet business needs, requirements—a major contributing factor to project failures—continue to be a major problem. Because of the persistence of the requirements problem, The Performance Institute (http://www.performanceinstitute.org/) embarked on a research paper to examine the answers to two questions:

  1. Why haven’t organizations been able to effectively address the requirements problem?
  2. In organizations that have made improvements, what actions have had the biggest impact?

Results Aren’t Surprising

The researchers’ findings were recently published in “The Problem with Requirements: Why is it Still a Problem?” (http://www.performanceinstitute.org/requirements-problem/).  Interviews and answers uncovered five main issues that lead to the “requirements problem” organizations experience today:

1. Organizations focus on the wrong thing. Software projects delivered results that failed to address a strategic business need were a predominant complaint. The misguided mission of “getting the work done,” instead of enhancing two-way communication with stakeholders about components needed to propel the organization forward, lead to problems.

2. Not enough time spent on requirements. Time and time again, organizations reporting on challenged projects say that not enough time is devoted to eliciting requirements. Successful projects reported the opposite—that the time spent on requirements was “about right.”

3. The wrong people “do” requirements. Often, the person who has the time to gather requirements is the person asked to define requirements. In some organizations the vendor is given the responsibility of documenting requirements. No wonder there are problems on these projects.

4. Often BAs don’t have the right stuff. Research has found that just because someone holds the title “Business Analyst” doesn’t guarantee that a person is qualified to define and manage requirements for difficult, complex projects. Furthermore, holding certification in business analysis doesn’t mean that they are able to navigate successfully in this environment.

5. Government contracts are too complex. The complexity of the contracting process made requirements problematic for some organizations. Delays between when a request is submitted and when the product or service is actually contracted often meant that the requirements information becomes Overcome By Events (OBE); resulting in a solution that does not meet the business need.

Conclusion

Despite the value of requirements to the enterprise, most organizations apply surprisingly little rigor to their approaches to requirements elicitation and management. Moreover, many executives continue to underestimate the impact of their requirements discipline on organizational success.

Doug Jackson, CBAP

Doug Jackson is Sr. Director, Requirements and Business Analysis Practice for Robbins Gioia (http://www.robbinsgioia.com/). A key contributor to “The Problem with Requirements: Why is it Still a Problem?”, he is a certified business analysis professional with over 20 years consulting and practitioner experience in all areas of business analysis.  You can contact Doug at 703.548.7006, and learn more about the report by visiting http://www.performanceinstitute.org/requirements-problem/.

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