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Project Management Series:  The Importance of Defined Requirements in Project Management


Developing a new product from the ground up is a massive undertaking. That's putting it lightly. Every minute detail matters, and there are usually multiple teams devoting their time to different pieces of the puzzle. All it takes is one error to create delays, putting you at risk of going over budget and past your deadline.

Good project management is crucial to the success of your project, plain and simple. It's about turning vague ideas into a sequence of precise, applicable tasks that bring the product to life. Unfortunately, few businesses put the time and resources into proper project management.

You can have all the skilled engineers in the world, but excellent project management will be the thing that helps you create products that fall in line with your vision. Voler Systems takes project management seriously. Our goal is to ensure that every aspect of the project goes smoothly from start to finish.

Project management is more complex than most realize. However, the entire process starts with carefully defined project requirements.

What are Project Requirements?

To put it simply: Requirements define the product you're about to create. They detail what the product does and its various features, capabilities, functions, and behaviors. That might seem like a simple enough concept that you can quickly jot down. But in the context of product development and project management, defining requirements is more involved than most realize.

Many types of requirements exist, and they all serve different purposes. For example, the requirements from a business and customer standpoint differ from the technical requirements needed to build the product. However, all of that matters in the realm of project management.

Your high-level Marketing Requirements Document or MRD can help you write your Product Requirements Document or PRD, enabling you to determine scope as you get deeper and deeper into the finer details. Ultimately, defining your requirements is about deciding every detail to formulate an actionable plan that brings your idea to life while mitigating mistakes, wasted time, and unnecessary expenses.

Guide to Developing Product Requirements for Medical Device

Why Defining Requirements is Necessary

Have you ever watched a project fail due to a lack of communication? Maybe the project's scope changed constantly, or you had to go back and make multiple revisions to the prototype because of a missed specification. Whatever the case may be, there's a good chance that a lack of well-defined requirements was to blame.

We hear about these kinds of issues all the time from new clients.

It's much of the same story: The client had big ideas about a new product, but their previous consultant delivered something entirely different. When we ask about requirements, we hear that the project started with nothing more than a five-minute conversation! There was nothing in writing, and the discussion about requirements was entirely verbal. No one can refer back to a document to remember what was said.

Defining your requirements is crucial to the overall success of your project. Think of it this way: How can you expect engineers to create a product without knowing what it should do or how it needs to behave?

An engineer's job isn't to determine the functionality of a product. It's to figure out the finer details and develop solutions to make already defined functionality requirements happen. When an engineer must make things up on the spot and guess what you're trying to accomplish, that's when you waste time and resources.

Requirements are about being precise in your goals and leaving little room for interpretation.

How Requirements Impact Your Project Moving Forward

In addition to ensuring that the final product meets your company's intended goals, requirements can guide the project through its many stages of development. A great project manager uses the requirements to their advantage to keep every cog in the wheel turning smoothly.

As mentioned earlier, several teams are working to bring your ideas to life. Requirements keep everyone on the same page. If issues arise or project parameters change, updates to the requirements document will avoid delays and errors. Requirements communicate details concisely, including the details of changes, making it easy for various teams to meet their goals and provide timely deliverables.

Speaking of which, well-defined requirements are a must for scheduling. A big part of project management is keeping things moving and creating actionable phases and achievable milestones. Some project elements might have to wait for others to finish before moving forward to the next steps.

Requirements help you spot those issues and plan to avoid delays. Your specifications play a big part in gauging milestone completion, ensuring that we can move through the set schedule and deliver the finished product on time

Another meaningful way that defined requirements impact your project is by helping you identify and manage risks. Projects of any size and scope come with a degree of uncertainty. Successful engineering is about managing trade-offs and developing a product that suits your market and supports your bottom line. Defined requirements put you one step ahead by allowing you to identify and understand risks before you start development. That way, you can address them efficiently using techniques like feasibility studies or prototypes.

We'll get into risks later in the next part of our project management series.

Keys to Success When Defining Requirements

Defining requirements is about more than just jotting down some basic specifications. The more in-depth and detailed the information is, the better! Here are some tips for creating concise and applicable requirements that benefit your project.

1. Communication📢

We can't stress this enough—Communication is vital when dealing with any aspect of a product development project. Don't be afraid to ask questions and get all the essential details you need. In many cases, those who lead projects aren't well-versed in every aspect of design and development.

Communicate openly with the various teams to ensure that requirements are as precise as possible. When unplanned surprises come up, report them, and keep teams updated.

2. Involve Multiple Stakeholders 👩🏼👨🏽🧓👦🏽👩🏿🦱

It's not just one group that will benefit from the final product. The goal is to support the business as a whole, but the needs of different stakeholders must come into play. Bring those stakeholders in to develop requirements that address all potential issues.

For example, your marketing team can help you develop requirements catered to the end-user. Meanwhile, you can speak to logistics directors to figure out the best way to ship the final product. Include manufacturing so the device will be designed to be manufacturable. The last thing you want is to deal with an issue at the last minute. Include multiple stakeholders, and you can cover all your bases and define every requirement necessary.

3. Establish Project Scope 📃

One of the most important details to cover is the project's overall scope. That sounds like a broad requirement, but it's crucial to define. Figure out your goals, deadlines, and project deliverables.

The goal of establishing a scope is to set boundaries for your project. Scope creep, also known as a requirement or feature creep, is a genuine issue. Requirements can quickly increase over the life of a project as you attempt to add more capabilities and features. Set your project scope and stay within those boundaries. Otherwise, things can get out of hand very quickly.

If you consider adding a requirement, make sure all the stakeholders give you feedback on the impact before proceeding. A simple change requires a redesign, but it may add technical risk. It will certainly add time and increase the budget. It also may impact manufacturing. The cost may increase. Marketing should advise if a higher cost is justified. Do customers want this?

One customer made a simple change to the design late in the development. They changed the microprocessor to one with added capability. The change required changes to the firmware, however. It also delayed the introduction to the market. In the end, the company failed, partly due to the last-minute change without considering the impact.

4. Specificity and Testability 📈

In product development, you want to be as specific as possible. Instead of saying you want an element to "sort of work this way," set exact parameters. Vague language only leads to confusion. Not only that, but it makes it impossible to provide accurate status reports or define complete milestones.

Another essential thing to remember is that specifications should be testable. At Voler Systems, we verify all requirements. When a requirement isn’t measurable, it’s not clear if the final design has met the requirement.

How Detailed Should Requirements Be?

Although you need detail, you can have too much. You don’t need to specify the parts to use. The engineers are very experienced at determining the best parts to meet the requirements. However, it’s rare to have too much detail in a requirements document. Usually, there is too little.

We are happy to review your requirements and let you know if you have the right level of detail.

Good Project Management Starts with Defined Requirements

Some might view the process of establishing requirements as a waste of time. We know it's a crucial part of project management. Voler Systems has first-hand experience with the difference that well-defined requirements can make.

Establishing requirements helps you avoid costly hiccups and delays when done right. In the end, they play a pivotal role in delivering a product that meets your exact needs.

If you want to start your project on the right foot, turn to Voler Systems. We pride ourselves on our systematic approach to project management. As a result, we complete nearly all projects on time and within budget.

Be sure to check out the next article in our Project Management series. You’ll learn how we use project requirements and architecture design to identify and reduce risk.

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