Tech Selection Tips #4: Capture Requirements That Don't Suck

A solid understanding of your organization's requirements is essential to successful technology selection. Getting that understanding will involve information gathering from various stakeholder groups, utilizing a variety of techniques, as well as incorporating best practices from the wider digital world.  Unfortunately, it's easy to get this part wrong.

How Not to Articulate Requirements

Whatever you do, avoid “check box” requirements sheets, where you ask the vendor: “can you do this; can you do that?

As a practical matter, vendors have seen all these questions and have figured out how to check all the boxes. That really sucks.

Requirements suck, but yours don't have to...

But what’s worse is that such spreadsheets convert the understanding of what should be a human-centered, interactive activity into a bloodless series of row-by-row activities better suited for robots repeatedly performing rote tasks.

There’s a different way to do this than torturing your Business Analyst – and everyone else – with long spreadsheets. It revolves around pursuing a User-Centered Design (UCD) approach that emphasizes narratives, often called “stories” or “journeys.”  More about those in a subsequent post.

Don’t Include the Kitchen Sink

While it’s critical to identify your requirements, it will prove even more important to prioritize them. Non-critical requirements can hijack the product selection process, by distracting you and vendors from what’s really important.

Remember that you are not specifying out an actual implementation at this phase. You are trying to contrast potential suppliers and solutions. So while complete requirements are nice, prioritized requirements are gold.

Tips for Better Requirements

  • You will need to invest in both information and process analysis, and this will require data analysis as well as contextual inquiry
  • Avoid long, undifferentiated, spreadsheet-based feature lists, in favor of uncovering material sufficiently necessary to create key personas and scenarios
  • Always start with the user experience and work your way back into enterprise systems (this is UCD in action)
  • Avoid the temptation to broaden scope beyond your original charter

  • In an adaptive process, you don’t need to be perfect at this (or any other) phase, so focus your inquiry into stakeholders’ most burning problems or largest opportunities

RSG can help you make solid technology selection decisions. Review our services and ping me with any questions.

Next Steps

If you're selecting digital workplace or marketing/engagement technology, be sure to check out RSG's hard-hitting vendor evaluation research.

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