Every business project is influenced by business and stakeholder requirements that constrain and guide it. Typically, a project manager uses these requirements to define the project’s scope and outline success criteria. Requirements management refers to the process of identifying and managing these discrete requirements.
Below, we take a closer look at what a typical requirements management plan includes and outline the steps you can take to create one.
What is a requirements management plan?
A requirements management plan is a document that is typically created alongside the primary project plan as a piece of the scope management process. Its primary purpose is to ensure that all stakeholder and business requirements are captured, analyzed, managed, and addressed by the project plan.
“Without a requirements management plan, your stakeholder requirements can get lost,” says Todd Loeb, an assistant academic specialist in Northeastern’s Master of Science in Project Management program. “[The document] really walks you through how your project requirements are going to be managed throughout the lifecycle of the project.”
Some of the most important questions answered in the requirements management plan include:
- How will you identify stakeholder requirements?
- How will you prioritize these requirements?
- Who will be responsible for requirements management?
- How will you establish traceability?
- How will changes to requirements be managed?
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How to Create a Requirements Management Plan
According to Loeb, the work required to create and enact a requirements management plan typically falls into three phases.
1. Define the project’s scope.
Your first step in generating a requirements management plan is to define the project’s scope, which is typically captured in a separate document called a scope management plan.
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), “Without a clear project scope definition, the project stakeholders lack critical information.”
This lack of information makes it difficult to determine whether any requirements are missing, whether a proposed solution can or should be implemented, if the project is experiencing scope creep, among other concerns.
“The requirements management plan is an output of the scope management plan,” Loeb concurs. “The project manager plans how they’re going to identify and capture scope, and the requirements management plan is then driven out of that.”
2. Define your approach to requirements management.
The next (and arguably most important) step is to define the methodology that will guide your requirements management process. Depending on the organization, you might find that this approach will remain largely the same among projects, or you might find that each project demands a unique approach to requirements management. Ultimately, it is up to the project manager to decide which approach is best.
In defining your requirements management methodology and approach, you should seek to answer the following questions:
How will you identify stakeholders?
Because most project requirements will originate from its stakeholders, you must first understand precisely who those stakeholders are. Outline the specific actions you plan to take to identify your project’s stakeholders, including actions such as conducting interviews, scheduling meetings, or holding team brainstorming sessions.
This information will also live in your stakeholder engagement plan.
How will you prioritize requirements?
While a single requirement may guide a smaller or less complex project, more complicated projects will often involve multiple, sometimes conflicting, requirements. It’s essential that you establish a methodology for prioritizing these requirements before the project begins. Typically, this task includes identifying requirements that are mission-critical and prioritizing them over others.
Who will be responsible for requirements management efforts?
Will this be the project manager? Another member of the project team? Whatever the case, identifying the individual responsible for managing requirements throughout the project is essential.
How will you establish traceability?
Traceability refers to the process for tracking a project’s requirements from the time they are identified through to the end of the project. Traceability is established in a requirements traceability matrix—a chart that can vary by organization and project.
“In my opinion, the most important part of the plan will lay out how traceability is going to be accomplished,” Loeb says.
How will changes to requirements be managed?
No matter how well you plan your project, there will always be changes. This concept is as true for a project’s requirements as it is for any other piece of the project. With this in mind, it’s important to establish a protocol for managing such changes if and when they develop.
“Within the requirements management plan is going to be a change control plan,” Loeb says. “This document outlines a formal process for documenting the change.”
While the specifics of the document may vary depending on the organization or the process, some key information captured in it includes:
- How the requirement in question has changed
- Why the decision to make the change was made
- Who signed off on the change
- What impact (if any) it will have on the project
3. Put the plan into action.
Once you have established your methodology, you can begin to execute your plans into motion by starting your requirements management work. Identify your project’s stakeholders and their requirements, prioritize those requirements, assign roles, establish traceability, and track your progress, all while adjusting your plan as necessary throughout the project.
Learning How to Manage Your Project’s Requirements
Understanding and managing your project’s business and stakeholder requirements is one of the most important abilities for a successful project manager. If you don’t understand your requirements and how they relate to scope, it becomes exceptionally difficult to usher your project through completion.
With this in mind, if you are seeking formal education to become a project manager, for example, by completing your master of science in project management, it’s crucial to select a program that includes requirements management in the curriculum.
The Master of Science in Project Management at Northeastern is designed to encompass all of the major knowledge areas and skills that a student needs to become proficient in project management. This specialized program includes coursework dedicated to scope and requirements management and is taught by faculty with real project management experience. Paired with experiential learning, this industry expertise provides a springboard for students to break into the field.
To learn how a master’s degree in project management can help advance your career, download our free guide to advancing in the industry below.
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