Requirement Documents, Oh the Inefficiencies!

I’ve written a fair number of requirement documents in my business analyst lifetime, and I’m still not sure what took longer – gathering and documenting the requirements, or trying to get the business to read and approve them. Let me know if this sounds familiar… You spend weeks, maybe months, eliciting requirements, reviewing requirements, and documenting requirements in a nicely formatted word document with the title Business Requirements Document (or something similar) slapped on the front. You are proud of the work you have done, the diagrams you have drawn, the requirements you have logically ordered and laid out for your stakeholders to read – and you’re sure that you have made it down right simple for anybody to just open it up and review it. You happily click send on the email, sure that your stakeholders will read it and send back their input within the requested time frame—after all, who wants to risk the project deadline, right? Problem is, usually stakeholders don’t have the time, or the space, to review a long—and let’s be honest—often boring, requirements document.  Your priority as the BA to get the requirements document reviewed and approved is unfortunately often not their priority—and it’s extremely hard to make it so. Or even when you do get their input, what you receive is often not as meaningful as you were hoping—I remember on more than one occasion receiving a requirements document back with fewer comments about the requirements themselves than about the spelling or grammar style I chose to write it in. In today’s projects, where the dynamics of the solution is constantly shifting,...

How PMs Can Use Lean Startup to Increase Project Success in Any Organization

Even though it’s a methodology designed for product management teams, Lean Startup provides a lot of good concepts and principles for project managers looking to make sure their projects are successful. And while the word “startup” is in the name, its core tenets can actually be applied to any organization, whether a startup or a Fortune 500 company. “The goal of a startup is to figure out the right thing to build—the thing customers want and will pay for—as quickly as possible. In other words, the Lean Startup is a new way of looking at the development of innovative new products that emphasize fast iteration and customer insight, a huge vision, and great ambition, all at the same time.” – The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries If we take this quote from author and Lean Startup pioneer Eric Ries and replace the phrases “a startup” and “Lean Startup” with the phrase “an organization,” the statement would still be true. Any organization wants to figure out the right thing to build as quickly as possible, not just startups. With agile development being the latest craze, we all want to emphasize fast iteration, and experience has taught us all that customer insight is at the core of success. Many of the lessons and principles in Lean Startup are indeed tailored to the needs of entrepreneurs and new endeavors; however, many of them also apply to project management initiatives in any company. 50% of features and functions are rarely or never used, while 30% get used sometimes or infrequently, according to...

Q&A on KPIs for Agile Project Managers and Business Analysts

The questions below came from our latest webinar on KPIs for Agile Project Managers and Business Analysts. What are some leading BA KPIs? Stakeholder satisfaction by Feature (Satisfaction) Stakeholder activity by Feature (Engagement) Cycle time from ideation to Feature approval Business value per Feature (Value) Test coverage for Feature (Quality) Number of defects per Feature (Quality) Feature Completeness (Inspection or Peer Review) Is it common practice to have stakeholders sign off on KPIs prior to development? Yes, however, stakeholders should also be actively involved in their development. Getting stakeholder approval is key for all KPIs. What is a good way to minimize the time to get signoff on requirements WITHOUT getting poor/missing/misunderstood requirements? Optimally, requirements should be reviewed as they are being created.  To do this requires an automated requirements tool such as Enfocus Requirements Suite™. Here are some specific recommendations: Break down the solution scope into separate independent components (Features). Validate each Feature and eliminate Features that provide little or no value. Define solution requirements only for validated features. Assign a BA and a Sponsor to each Feature Allow stakeholders to review and comment on each requirement as they are being developed using an automated tool such as Enfocus Requirements Suite.™ Obtain review and signoff on a Feature by Feature basis using stakeholders that are involved in that feature.  This procedure can prevent a lot of noise. Measure the cycle time from Ideation to validation and validation to acceptance. Where can I get the benchmark for any metric? There are many benchmarking services, including: APQC The Hackett Group InfoTech Enfocus Requirements Suite™ (RequirementCoach™) Process Intelligence What tool was...

Measuring Project Success Using Business KPIs

Delivering a project “on-time and on-budget” is no longer an adequate measure of project success. In today’s environment, the key question should be: “Did the project deliver value to the business?” For example, a project could be delivered on time and on budget, but does not guarantee: Benefits outlined in business case were achieved User adoption Expected ROI was achieved A satisfied customer The solution addresses the customer need Sales were in line with forecasts There will be market demand for the product As a project manager, you may think that delivering business results isn’t your concern and that it is the customer’s problem to solve.  However in today’s environment, project managers are expected to partner with the customer, understand the business drivers, and ensure that the project delivers the business results that were specified in the business case. That is how many organizations are beginning to view project success. Delivering business value can be a tall order. Delivering business value requires gaining an understanding of the business drivers: the problem or opportunity that precipitated the project and defining a clear set of business objectives to address the problem. Measuring business value is best done through defining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and measuring actual performance using the KPIs. Key Performance Indicators are quantifiable measurements that are agreed to by stakeholders to reflect the critical success factors of an organization. KPIs are: Established by the customer at the beginning of the project and listed in order of priority. Directly related to and supported by business goals and objectives. The basis for critical decision-making throughout the project. The basis for acceptance...

Delivering Value through Application Portfolio Rationalization

By proactively identifying and eliminating or remedying poorly performing application assets, Application Portfolio Rationalization helps companies to: Reduce costs, Target efforts to the areas of highest return, and Maximize the business value of their application portfolios. Globalization and changing business requirements impose significant challenges on technology leaders who are under constant pressure to both innovate and reduce costs. These demands to do more with less have been exacerbated by business leaders hearing about prospective savings from use of the Cloud without understanding the impact of transition. Many organizations are electing to combine their initiatives for application rationalization and migration to the cloud. IT leaders are forced to accelerate the rollout of new systems and technologies to support the business without compromising the performance of existing applications. They must address key issues, such as balancing cost, complexity, and capacity, and also deliver business value by applying continuous improvement methodologies. Application portfolio rationalization helps organizations turn these challenges into benefits in terms of reduced costs and more value delivered to the business. Application portfolio rationalization is an important and continuous exercise for evaluating and controlling IT costs. Application portfolio rationalization involves focusing on the application portfolio looking for redundant applications, one-off technologies, applications with few users, and applications with a high cost/user ratio. With a complete understanding of the current environment, the next step is to consider what should be done to move from current to the ideal. Gartner Group research confirms that a focused application rationalization effort will typically result in substantial cost savings while improving support for the lines of business. These savings are too large to ignore. Additional...