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Topics: Leadership, Stakeholder Management
How important is it to get signature signoff on requirements (either agile or waterfall) before proceeding with project execution?
Network:36



Requirements gathering is an essential step in the formulation of a project. Requirements should be clear, concise, and achievable. But, what if your team goes through the effort of creating a stellar requirements plan and the customer becomes passive aggressive and does not sign off on it? Government funding has been granted and the customer has a hard deadline. What are your options?
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Network:53



It would depend on the level of requirements. Customer requirements are contractual in my experience. If they're not going to sign off on what they're buying, how does anyone assert whether the contractual terms were met? Requirements validation (are they the right requirements) often involves customer concurrence. Lower level derived detail design requirements are often proprietary and not shared with the customer.

The requirements management plan may or may not require customer concurrence. That itself would be a customer requirement. On government projects, there may be a need for formal agreement to the plan, especially on the verification side (does the product meet the requirements). Other times, the customer doesn't care how we find compliance, so long as they get what they paid for.
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2 replies by Larry Clairmont
Dec 05, 2018 4:03 PM
Larry Clairmont
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"Other times, the customer doesn't care how we find compliance, so long as they get what they paid for."

I have been on projects where we stated to the customer, "No response by xxx date implies acceptance of the requirements."

1) The risk is we deliver something to them that doesn't meet their expectations...
2) The customer modifies the requirements without telling the project team.
3) The customer never read the requirements plan...
Dec 05, 2018 4:08 PM
Larry Clairmont
...
"If they're not going to sign off on what they're buying, how does anyone assert whether the contractual terms were met?"

That is the key. I am on a government project where we submitted high level requirements to the primary stakeholder based on a charter. The customer never signed off on the requirements despite repeated requests to do so. My recommendations to the Program Manager to not proceed until we get acknowledgement was overruled.
Network:279



I would be very professional curious to find out the root reason for the customer behavior. I would be skeptical of providing resources to bring requirements to life if the customer has not agreed to them. There may be a need for further requirement elicitation, definition, and documentation. I require customers to sign some form of agreement, even if only a simple project plan to spell out roles, responsibility, resources needed, organizational and customer impact, schedule etc. before approving or seeking approval.

If the customer is not sure what he or she wants, maybe I need to slow down and spend more time with him or her and possible his/her partners.
Network:163



I'd be very concerned if the customer becomes passive aggressive at that point. It's very important to get sign off, because all stakeholders become amnesiacs when the product is delivered. (You told me X would be included, and it's not... I remember the feature working this way and not how it works today.... You said we could add this feature and it wouldn't delay the project..... etc....)

I wonder if the customer feels they're about to be painted into a corner. It could be that they are not confident in their ability to convey the requirements, and they are afraid to sign off. Perhaps their manager told them they better get it right so they are hesitant. Is it possible they withheld some info that they have to include before signing the requirements. Perhaps an unstructured meeting to allow the customer to explain their hesitance?
Network:36



Dec 05, 2018 3:11 PM
Replying to Keith Novak
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It would depend on the level of requirements. Customer requirements are contractual in my experience. If they're not going to sign off on what they're buying, how does anyone assert whether the contractual terms were met? Requirements validation (are they the right requirements) often involves customer concurrence. Lower level derived detail design requirements are often proprietary and not shared with the customer.

The requirements management plan may or may not require customer concurrence. That itself would be a customer requirement. On government projects, there may be a need for formal agreement to the plan, especially on the verification side (does the product meet the requirements). Other times, the customer doesn't care how we find compliance, so long as they get what they paid for.
"Other times, the customer doesn't care how we find compliance, so long as they get what they paid for."

I have been on projects where we stated to the customer, "No response by xxx date implies acceptance of the requirements."

1) The risk is we deliver something to them that doesn't meet their expectations...
2) The customer modifies the requirements without telling the project team.
3) The customer never read the requirements plan...
Network:36



Dec 05, 2018 3:11 PM
Replying to Keith Novak
...
It would depend on the level of requirements. Customer requirements are contractual in my experience. If they're not going to sign off on what they're buying, how does anyone assert whether the contractual terms were met? Requirements validation (are they the right requirements) often involves customer concurrence. Lower level derived detail design requirements are often proprietary and not shared with the customer.

The requirements management plan may or may not require customer concurrence. That itself would be a customer requirement. On government projects, there may be a need for formal agreement to the plan, especially on the verification side (does the product meet the requirements). Other times, the customer doesn't care how we find compliance, so long as they get what they paid for.
"If they're not going to sign off on what they're buying, how does anyone assert whether the contractual terms were met?"

That is the key. I am on a government project where we submitted high level requirements to the primary stakeholder based on a charter. The customer never signed off on the requirements despite repeated requests to do so. My recommendations to the Program Manager to not proceed until we get acknowledgement was overruled.
Network:738



If you ask the client to define (conceptually) a requirement, and ask the project team to do the same, you'll often get widely different answers.

Some of the problem comes from an inability to know a requirement when you see it.
Network:279



I agree and unless you can get everyone on the same page up front the scope variance will continue bro grow.
Network:1680



First of all, a key thing must be taken into account. Project manager is accountable for project requirements not for product requirements. Business Analyst is accountable for product requirements. From product requirements project requirements are defined. Second, while it is impossible do not agree about the best is to have requirements signoff, after years to work on differents domains (govermement included) and different approaches/environments in those domains, the important thing is to agree the project change management process taken into account that product requirements will drive any change on project requirements (most of the times and take into account the level of accurancy you get no matter how well requirments are stated due to the inherent uncertainty because the step inside the project life cycle you are located (see Barry Bohem´s Cone of Uncertainty as a reference)
Network:2029



Behavior such as this leads to additional assumptions and risks. I find communication highlighting the point will aid in obtaining feedback. I’ve also laid potential initiatives out to dry with no feedback. Depends on the situation.

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