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Agile & Development: Product Requirements Management

What Is Product Requirements Management?

Product requirements management is the ongoing process of overseeing the implementation of all requirements needed to deliver a product to market.

In this context, “requirements” refer to all of the capabilities and needs for the product that the organization’s stakeholders agree should be included in its development. Requirements might also be referred to as a product’s goals, needs, user stories, features, functional requirements, system requirements, etc.

The individual or team responsible for requirements management must document, prioritize, control changes to, and regularly communicate the status of a product’s requirements to stakeholders throughout the development process.

Objectives of Product Requirements Management

Organizations implement formal requirements management processes for several business reasons, including:

  • To help the cross-functional team prioritize high-value development work. Additionally, to make better strategic use of its limited resources and increase the chances of product success.
  • To reduce the chances of design or development mistakes, which could lead to costly re-development work and a delay in a product’s launch.
  • To set realistic expectations with product stakeholders early in the process.
  • To help the team trace requirements and manage changes throughout the development process. For example, by understanding a requirement’s interdependencies with other requirements, the team can conduct a full impact analysis before implementing a change, to get a sense of the full scope (in time delays, costs, resources, etc.) that the change could represent to the project as a whole.

Why Do Organizations Need Product Requirements Management?

According to Jama Software, our co-contributors at the product management coalition The Product Stack, better requirements management contributes directly to a business’s bottom line.

While making the economic case for improved requirements management, Jama lists the exponential increases in costs to correct a requirement error, the later in the development process the team discovers it.

In the table below, they show how it is far less expensive and detrimental to discover a problem in the Requirements Development phase — which only organizations with a formal requirements management process will engage in.

Additionally, Jama also lists several other reasons that businesses should develop and improve their requirements management processes.

  • It helps a team make more accurate predictions about a product’s business returns.
  • It enables more accurate timeline, resource, and budget estimates.
  • It helps enable better-informed requirements prioritization.
  • It helps enable better product design.
  • It facilitates more effective testing.
  • It can accelerate overall development.

The Stages of Product Requirements Management

The details of a requirements management process will vary by company. However, there are certain must-have steps that all organizations should use. The Project Management Institute has created a requirements management plan that includes the key stages:

  • Identify stakeholders
  • Gather/elicit requirements
  • Analyze requirements
  • Specify/document requirements(Note:the output of this stage might be a product requirements document, although this is becoming less typical in modern, agile development organizations, because requirements can change so frequently that PRDs will be often be outdated.)
  • Baseline requirement groups (agree and sign-off on requirements)
  • Communicate requirements to relevant stakeholders
  • Monitor/track requirements
  • Manage and control changes to requirements
  • Report requirements compliance

Every Organization Should Have a Requirements Management Process

As our partners at Jama Software explained, an effective, formal requirements management process offers many benefits to a product organization: faster development, better project selection, and ultimately more successful products.

Before your team begins another initiative, it’s a good idea to establish a requirements management plan to use from the very beginning of the strategic planning process for your next product.