Thursday, August 02, 2018

PMP Protein: Requirements Gathering Methods

By Dilip Nenmelil, PMP

Various methods are available with respect to requirements gathering. Each one has its pros and cons and no project uses just one method but aspects from multiple methods.

Requirements gathering methods differ from one project to another. One method which proved to be highly useful to you in one project may not be so in another project. Therefore, selecting methods for requirements gathering should be based on the benefits it offer with respect to the project you are undertaking. 

Few of the essential requirements gathering methods that one must be aware of to manage projects of varied kinds are mentioned below.

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Document Analysis
  3. Focus Groups
  4. Interviews
  5. Prototyping
  6. Requirements Workshop
  7. Questionnaires and Surveys
  8. Benchmarking

The PMI-PMBOK® Guide 6th edition, divides these techniques or methods into two broad areas – grouped and ungrouped, which is shown in the below figure. 

While brainstorming, focus groups, interviews, questionnaires & surveys and benchmarking fall under Data Gathering tool and technique (T&T) group, requirements workshop falls under Interpersonal and Team Skills T&T group, and document analysis fall under Data Analysis T&T group. Prototyping technique is an ungrouped T&T. 

Brainstorming is a method used to generate and collect multiple ideas related to project and product requirements in a short period of time. It is often conducted in a group environment led by a facilitator.
As per the PMBOK guide, brainstorming comprises of two parts; idea generation and analysis. It can be used to gather information from stakeholders (clients), SMEs or any team member for that matter. It generally helps in identifying all possible solutions to problems.

Document Analysis
Studying or analyzing documentation of an existing system can assist in creating process documents and can also be used in determining the scope of migration projects. This technique analyzes or evaluates any documented information which helps the project as a whole. Examples of documents that could be reviewed/studied are – Use cases, RFP’s, Regulatory notes, Current system architecture, Interface documentation etc.

Focus Groups
Focus groups bring together customer stakeholders, SMEs or user representatives to know their feedback or expectations about a proposed product, service or result. The feedback can be collected about opportunities, needs, and problems to determine requirements or it can be collected to refine and validate the already proposed requirements. A trained moderator guides the interactive discussion.

Interviews use a direct approach of collecting information from the users and stakeholders by talking to them. It is performed by asking prepared questions to the attendees and asking the appropriate questions to further clarify their initial responses. It is also important to record the responses as it is. Interview is usually a one on one discussion. Interviewing the right stakeholders can go a long way in identifying the functions of the proposed project deliverable.

Prototyping is a method of collecting feedbacks on requirements by creating a model or simulating the product. It’s very helpful when people struggle to articulate a specific requirement in the abstract. It can also be done via sketches or storyboards which are usually seen in Agile projects. Prototypes can go through multiple revision cycles and sometimes they are included as part of the requirements itself.

Requirements Workshops
Requirements Workshops are more organized and structured sessions where the involved parties work together to document the requirements. The participants are carefully selected stakeholders to help identify, refine, prioritize and validate requirements. A skilled facilitator usually manages these workshops. The attendees should actively contribute and if possible, results of the session should be made immediately available to the attendants.

Questionnaires and Surveys
When seeking information from multiple stakeholders; too many for an interview or focus group with time and budget constraints, questionnaires or surveys can be of help. It asks the users to choose from a set of given options, agree / disagree or give a rating on something. Questionnaires and Surveys are appropriate when information is required from a large number of varied respondents, when most are remotely located or when a project require statistical sampling and analysis to proceed.

Benchmarking involves comparison with industry best practices which can aid in performance measurement. The compared project can be from within the organization or any external organization. In project management, benchmarking supports project selection, planning and delivery. Typically, benchmarked metrics are time, cost and quality. Best practice benchmarking identifies the best firms in one particular industry or in another industry where processes are similar and compares the results to one's own.

The above-mentioned methods or techniques are few important ones among the many requirement gathering methods. The description is in no way comprehensive but is intended to give you a fair idea on the subject and I sincerely hope will help you in your day to day project management work. I also believe it will help you in your PMP® exam preparation.

Written by Dilip Nenmelil:
Dilip is currently working as a Project Manager with Infosys Ltd. He has a total of over 14 years of IT industry experience and about 4 years of Project Management experience. Dilip lives with his family in Bangalore and is a sports & games enthusiast. Write to him at or tweet to him @Dilly1981

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