Thursday, December 21, 2006

On So-Called "Business Requirements"

Over on the Requirements Defined blog, Dan notes that a prudent product manager reviews requirements with various stakeholders and team members early and often:

At all stages in the process, there should be time devoted to validating the requirement with the relevant team members. When a review and approval step is skipped, the requirement and the dependencies for that requirement are placed at risk.
Yet, in his entry, Dan unintentionally provides a good example of how confusion over an alleged distinction between "business" requirements and more "detailed" requirements can result in overlooking the real requirements altogether.

Let's examine all the alleged "levels" of requirements:

By requirements I mean everything from high-level business needs (e.g. stakeholder requests, business requirements, vision and problem statements) to the most granular requirements (aka shall statements, functional and supplementary requirements and the like).
The point of Dan's overall entry is well taken, and I'm sure that he had no intention of getting sucked into yet another semantic debate about the definition of "requirement". But I see substantive problems with the following statement:
Does a tester have to review a stakeholder request like “Business wants to provide upsell and cross-sell opportunities based on items browsed/purchased on the website.” Probably not, but the business does. They need to validate the functional features that will execute this requirement.
Requirements should, in principle, be testable. The stakeholder request is far too vague to be testable. Your product manager's job should be to engage the stakeholder in a dialog that brings out precisely what "upselling" and "cross-selling" are, why they are important, and how to measure them. Merely "providing the opportunities" is useless if the opportunities don't translate into measurable sales, or at least measurable clicks or page visitations.

Worrying about "validating the functional features" is relatively unimportant when the success metrics are in place. A significant cause of problems in many organizations is a tendency to go from vague stakeholder requests to features or low-level functional specifications. Neither stakeholder requests nor low-level functions are requirements. Only when organizations recognize this fact are they likely to identify the real, measurable, solution-independent requirements.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Another important thing is to actually validate the validity of requirements presented by stakeholders.

For example "customer" or "market" requirements presented by stakeholders from sales are often "marketing" requirements and could easyly be skipped, if the product is presented in another way (typical example sales thinks feature X of competitor is cool, whereas the feature is actually a well presented shortcoming).