When are you “done” with requirements?

I have asked this question in nearly every BA interview I’ve conducted and rarely heard the answer I was looking for.  The most common (and wrong) answer is “never”.  How can you hire someone who cannot establish a criteria for when they are done with the work you are considering hiring them to do?

So, what does it mean to be done with requirements?  I think there are three basic criteria:

  • Alignment: You have created alignment among your business stakeholders around what needs to be built to drive business value.  The evidence of this alignment is clearly documented.
  • Buildable: You’ve elaborated your set of requirements into a level of detail that an engineer can build from.  For example, an engineer can’t build “advanced search” but s/he can build the “ability to search the full-text of the article, where full-text includes the title, summary, and full article content, and present the article titles of all matching results”.  Now this requirement has a slew of other related requirements as part of a complete system and is probably best documented in a use case, but the requirement itself passes muster in that it’s ready to be built.
  • Quality test: The requirements meet your organization’s test for quality.  Now what this means will be a whole post in and of itself, but every organization should have a set of criteria by which the quality of requirements themselves are measured and evaluated.

Now even once you are done with requirements, you are not necessarily done communicating about them, which is why I think people get tripped up by my question.  There will be follow-up questions and in most cases there will be change requests which initiate additional requirements work (whether to incorporate new features or cull out deferred features).  But once your requirements documentation passes these three litmus tests…you are done.

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  1. Great post, Laura, on something that lots of people get wrong. I’ve had people accuse me of a “waterfall mentality” when I insist that you need to know what you’re building, and that it needs to be established clearly (subject to change request) rather than have its definition “never finished.” I’ll be quoting to others your lucid and succinct discussion of this topic!



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