What is the first thing to do during software outsourcing for your business or on behalf of your organisation?
Brainstorming some ideas and dish out information to the developer? Heck no!
From my personal experience, across 50 plus projects, things started like this rarely end well.
My bank balance and ego have been there. I don't want you to have to repeat my failures.
If you're a business owner with little technical or software development experience, the best thing to do is to engage the talents of contract professionals.
These include freelancers and digital agencies. However, you still need to understand the top risks with outsourcing software and find a way of preventing falling victim to the dangers of app development.
This article walks you through 8 steps to collect the requirements before outsourcing software. However, before we take a deep dive, let's define requirement gathering.
What is requirement gathering?
Requirement gathering is the practice of explaining the functionalities you would expect from your software.
It's the process of understanding your business objective, its user's needs, and the underlying processes to strike a balance between the two.
8 Tips to Ensure Successful Requirements Gathering
A clear understanding and documentation of your big picture are crucial whether you plan to outsource your software development or hire an in-house developer.
Below are the eight tips to ensure successful requirements gathering:
Understand the Difference Between Functional & Non-Functional Requirements
Functional requirements affect a product's output directly. They are the features, usability, capabilities, and operations.
Inversely, non-functional requirements encompass everything that don't affect software's function directly – stability, security, performance, and technical specifications.
Well explained functional and non-functional requirements will help your software engineer in successful documentation.
Documentation tasks such as defining terms, roles, making a project estimation and see possible gotcha's beforehand.
Having a pre-informed knowledge of these helps you minimise the risks of software outsourcing.
Embed User Stories
These are a general explanation of a software's feature written from the end user's viewpoint.
E.g: "As a User, I want to log in to the application so that I can use the application." Simple, I know, but essential.
This adopts non-technical words to provide an ideal context for the development team.
When the team understand what they are building, why they are building, and its value, it reduces the time spent building.
This has proved so popular with some of our clients that they're event embedded it into their manufacturing process!
Prioritise User Acceptance Criteria
In the real world, we employ different ways to communicate our ideas to avoid being misunderstood. 60-70% of communication is non-verbal. The same applies to software development.
Acceptance criteria help synchronise expectation. Simple yet effective, they are literally just functional and non-functional checklist for every User Story.
Going back to our User Story above, our acceptance criteria may be:
- A user can enter their email address and password to log in to the app
- A user receives a fail login notification due to incorrect or non-existent details.
- A user can reset this password via an email link.
- This is documented.
- There is an automated test for this.
Now, when development is complete, you've got your checklist to make sure it was built correctly.
Notice the last two points. Documentation and testing should form part of every user story!
Verify Project Goals and Objectives
Highlight and verify project goals. Don't assume, especially when outsourcing software on your organisation's behalf. Ask other stakeholders and executives, write it down and get their signatures.
Even for a sole proprietorship, clearly stated goals and objectives will earn you a framework for better future decision-making.
How would you know that a new requirement fits into the project? Simple: Does it accomplish the initial goal?
If so, it is a good fit.
If not, you might still need to go back to the drawing board.
Jot Down Every Fact during Requirement Documentation
Don't be too excited and forget to jot during a documentation review or stakeholders meeting.
When project members explain the requirements, you might feel like you have a grasp of all that is said.
5 weeks later, you have forgotten. Don't forget, "the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory."
Once you have them jotted, pass it down to the developers for quick feedback and implementation.
Confirm and Ensure Transparency with Your Requirement Documents
You've understood the requirements likewise the developers too. But do you know the developers' view of the requirements?
Ensure to update and clean your notes after every meeting. Besides, you have to share it with the project team and developers for approval.
This will keep all of you on the same page.
Get Consent from the Right Users
When engaged in initial meetings, ask probing questions to know the actual users and other project members.
Often, the actual users are not the decision-makers, but their approval is crucial for a successful project.
Don't Make Assumptions about Requirements
Don't assume that developers should figure something out themselves EVERY TIME.
It might be tricky at times. Saying I want to advertise my product is an obvious goal with many underlying assumptions.
Be concise with details and explicitly explain them to the developers.
Successful documentation is the work of both software engineers and stakeholders.
The two parties must carefully communicate their goals and ensure they are stating the obvious and reality of the project.