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Business Requirements Document for Software Development. How to Make it Right?

By: Anees Saddiq


Prepare for the Most Expensive Part of Software Development

Software development is complicated. It takes time, money, and effort to create any digital product, even the simplest one. Yet, there’s still a common misconception about the whole process among business owners. Many entrepreneurs believe that if they pay anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 (or even more), they don’t have to really do anything, as the hired team must figure everything out.

Alas, that is never the case, as for the project to succeed, the customer must be involved in software development at all times. And one of the crucial steps on the road to success is establishing business requirements for software development (BR for short). This is the part where stakeholders, managers, and analysts play an even bigger role than the tech gurus. And in this editorial, we will focus on the advice that will help you create the ultimate business requirements document for software development that will hit all the spots.

Business requirements. What are they?

Even if you’ve never been involved in the software creation lifecycle before, you’ve probably heard terms like business requirements, functional and non-functional requirements, and design or integration requirements. Those are all real and necessary. All of them serve different purposes. So how not to get confused, and where do business requirements stand in that line?

Imagine you want to build a food delivery app. The first question that will probably hit you is, “How do I do it?”. Reverse that thought as the better question to ask would be, “Why do I want to do it?”. Why that niche? Why those particular features? Why do I think it will be a good objective?

Business requirements for software development are aimed at taking care of the “Why?” part of the project. The goal of this document is to define the client’s business needs and problems and make sure a particular solution addresses those by bringing value.

The objectives might be different for each project. Some clients want to introduce the product to a new target audience, the others are striving to boost profit margin or expand the brand’s market presence. Business requirements help to achieve that as the end goal is clear from the start, which makes both the analysis and the actual development easier and more meaningful.

What should be included in the document?

Now let’s cover the vital elements each BR document should contain.

1. Summary/background

A short, concise introduction to the project’s context. Describe the problems that the company has faced as well as the desired solution. Do not beat around the bush, business requirements for software development is a lengthy documents but 4-6 sentences should be enough to convey the main points.

2. Goals

In this section, describe the objectives of the projects. Explain how they are leading to the achievement of the company’s strategic goals. Depict the target audience, and the ways newly developed software will benefit them.

You should focus on making the goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound, and tied to certain success metrics. It can be the number of downloads, average time spent on the page/app, percentage of growth for conversions, etc.

3. Scope

It may sound discouraging, but 49% of newly developed software projects fail. And one of the main reasons for that is poorly written documentation, specifically project scope. This is the part a business owner should pay close attention to as it establishes the responsibilities of the IT vendor and conveys the customer’s expectations in terms of what they want to be done.

Write down the amount of work you expect to be completed within the project. The goal here is to achieve maximum clarity. The more transparent and detailed scope is, the less miscommunication will happen once the development starts.

It is a good idea to not only list the tasks that require implementation but also to cover the aspect that will not be included in the scope. E.g., redesign the website’s main page but do not create a new logo.

4. Stakeholders

Contrary to popular belief, project stakeholders aren’t just the team members working on building specific software. It is any person (or a group of people) that will be in any way affected by the project. This means that business owners, managers, developers, employees, suppliers, and potential customers are all stakeholders. Figuring out who the stakeholders are and how a new solution will influence those people is mandatory for creating a helpful business requirements document for software development.

It not only makes the cooperation much more effective (as everybody is aware of their roles and tasks) but helps to ensure there are no missing links on the software’s way to the end-user.

5. Known limitations

By creating business requirements for software development, you want to create a solid base for further fruitful cooperation with an IT vendor. Therefore, it is crucial to point out all of the known constraints that may influence the workflow.

We’re talking about a timeframe (specific deadlines, important end dates for certain phases, etc.), budget limitations, available resources, preferred communication schedule/method, etc. In this case, the more information an entrepreneur shares with a provider, the better.

Practical tips to help you create a valuable business requirements document

Now that you know what to do, let’s turn it the other way around and focus on some “don’ts” of business requirements for software development.

1. Don’t use complicated language

When creating a BR document, aim for clarity, unambiguity, and conciseness. Use shorter sentences, avoid jargon, and include explanations for industry-specific terms (if any). Each person reading the document with requirements should understand the given information just like everyone else.

2. Don’t use only text

A BR document doesn’t have to consist of just text blocks. It might (and it won’t be a mistake), but it is always better to incorporate at least some kind of visuals. Graphics, diagrams, visual references for design… The list is nearly endless. Just think about what kind of visuals will be suitable for your project and use it to the fullest.

3. Don’t forget to prioritize

While forming business requirements, it is crucial for an entrepreneur to draw a fine line between actual business needs and their personal “wants” and “nice to haves.” It doesn’t mean that the business owner should remain silent and not vocalize their preferences and desires. It just means that both the IT services provider and the customer should be on the same page regarding the scope and task implementation priority.

4. Don’t neglect SWOT analysis

SWOT acronym stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” This method helps to evaluate both internal and external factors influencing the project and come up with the most effective implementation strategy.

The key here is to play to the company’s strengths and leverage all of the existing opportunities. SWOT analysis also helps to double-check if the future project will bring value, as 91% of the users will not stay on the page or an app that isn’t useful to them.

5. Don’t be afraid to validate the requirements

The requirements validation process is not always pleasant. It is tedious and nerve-wracking, and it makes you question your own judgment, but it is essential for the project’s success. You have to really make sure the document you’re coming up with is complete, correct, and understood by everyone involved. So at each stage of the BR creation, discuss the result with all the parties (from analysts and developers to managers and investors). If any misunderstandings happen, clear those right away.

And there you have it! Now you know a little bit more about business requirements. We hope that this editorial was helpful and your next software development project will be a new market sensation.

Published: October 29, 2022

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Anees Saddiq

Anees Saddiq loves to share business and lifestyle content with all related communities. With a focus on content marketing and branding, he hopes to inspire you to improve the performance of your online business. Follow @built4kill2004 on Twitter.

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