Gathering Requirements – If it can’t be measured; it can’t be a requirement

Provided by Michelle Swann, Vice President, PSG

One task that project managers face is gathering requirements. The requirements phase is essential in determining the success of the project because this phase defines the tasks that will be completed. Too many times, project managers include vague or immeasurable requirements in their document. One easy rule of thumb to follow is that “if it can’t be measured; it can’t be a requirement”. If the project team cannot measure the requirement, it is subjective and the definition of completion can be a moving target.

For example, a user can insist that a data entry form be “user friendly”. This cannot be a requirement because there is no way to measure it. The project manager needs to interview the potential users to come up with a measurable definition of “user friendly”. The user can decide that this means that all tasks on the form require no more than three steps or that all tasks can be completed without using the mouse. These requirements can be measured and tested and should be included.

Including only measurable requirements will help to avoid changing interpretations and assist in ensuring that the project team and the end users have the same expectations.

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