Project Management

The Requirements Wisecrack

Patti Gilchrist, PMP, is a Senior Technical Manager with more than 20 years of IT experience. Visit her website at

When it comes time to defining the requirements for a project, I typically like to establish a framework and initiate the ground rules by beginning the discussion with a wisecrack:

“I don’t know what your problem is, but I’ll bet it’s hard to pronounce.”

This tends to break the ice and put the team more at ease with laughter. But let’s face it: Requirements management is no laughing matter. Developing clear, quality and complete business requirements sounds easy enough. Yet statistics show that many organizations do not have a demonstrated and consistent track record for successfully defining scope and identifying requirements for their IT projects. In fact, requirement management issues are a primary cause of failure for IT projects:

  • ZDNet suggests that 37% of projects that fail cite requirements (unclear, lack of agreement, lack of priority, contradictory, ambiguous, imprecise) as one of the five top causes of failure.
  • ZDNet research also indicates that 25% of web projects fail, and one of the primary causes is changing requirements.
  • In a Computerworld survey, scope creep is attributed to “poor initial requirements definition.”
  • Inaccurate scope is one of the three primary reasons for failure of big data projects according to an Infochimps survey.

So now that we have framed the …

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