How to enable effective requirements communication and collaboration
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I am sure you would have seen a graphic similar to this depicting the communication gap between stakeholders in a project and its consequences. Today projects are getting increasingly complex, teams involved in them are often distributed and delivery time is getting reduced. Faster to market has become the major contributing factor to success for most of companies. Being unable to finish development on time and budget and thus missing opportunities is a vexing problem for organizations.
Clearly articulating stakeholder business objectives and requirements for application and product development gives the much needed head start to optimize end results; however tackling the challenge of managing effective communication between development teams and providing a mutually supportive collaborative environment helps ensure a successful project completion. Studies conducted by IBM have shown an improvement of 15-35% in team productivity with the help of effective collaboration. There are two aspects to communication – how to engage stakeholders and how to manage internal team communication.
Managing stakeholder communication
It’s imperative to engage stakeholders early on to get the requirements right. If you are an agile project environment, having consistent involvement of stakeholders becomes even more important and challenging. Providing stakeholder access to the project environment with appropriate levels of access enables this. Thorough requirements definition practices involve understanding as many specifics as possible and should start at the very beginning of the project.
Managing inter-team and stakeholder communication
Unifying stakeholders and the project team, helps to ensure that project goals are met and averting the potential impact that being late to market can have on the bottom line. Up-front visual and textual requirements elicitation techniques to build stakeholder consensus, for example, coupled with full requirements traceability across the life cycle, helps cut risk and the cost of rework from unclear, ambiguous or changing requirements. In the end, this can help improve the time to value and quality. Ralph R Young (Effective Requirements Practices) identifies three root causes for requirements related issues – wide disparity between stated requirements by customers and the real requirements expected ineffective requirements practices in supply chain and finally the lack of joint customer/supplier responsibility for the project success.
While the personal communication tactics like brainstorm meetings and knowledge sharing sessions can add immense value, the present day globally distributed environment requires more day-to-day closely knit solutions for communication. The requirements tool used should ideally have the capability to address a wide set of requirements information beyond the requirements themselves: business context, aspirations, considerations, and business and technical constraints. Capabilities like shared repository, simultaneous view of what team members are working on open issues, group conversations about requirements, and online reviews & approvals can significantly improve communication in the team and increase productivity. Linking requirements artifacts to related information in a repository, and embedding artifacts into documents and user interface sketches (empowering for rapidly refining ideas) have significant advantages. Also, this broad and flexible approach enables teams anywhere in the world to collaborate, clarify and achieve consensus quickly about the requirements as they develop business driven solutions.
Clearly, with geographically distributed teams, teamwork has new dimensions. If an organization gets collaboration right, it can potentially drive higher levels of productivity—and innovation