Nearly every organization is faced with a common problem: getting key stakeholders to agree to and deliver a solution that achieves shared business goals. Why is there a constant disconnect between stakeholders? Often, it comes down to communication. Different stakeholders come from different backgrounds, have different measurements of success, and communicate differently. Therefore, stakeholders regularly approach a project from various angles, making it very difficult to define the project vision, tactical objectives and subsequent requirements. This process can be frustrating and can lead to either IT or the business taking control to move the project forward.
I’m often approached by clients, colleagues, and friends asking: “What’s this Big Data/NoSQL thing I keep hearing about?” Oftentimes they’ve been told that these are the buzzwords that will help them get answers from the plethora of data out there. However, like any tool, it won’t help solve a problem unless used effectively. As an SEI consultant, I’ve often worked with my clients to help evaluate if Big Data and the other trendy buzzwords in tech could actually help solve their problems. At a recent Data Management forum, I presented information on the different uses for newer Data Management technologies, like Big Data and NoSQL, when compared to traditional relational solutions.
Recently, a client asked for a series of dashboards to help him understand certain usage trends in his company. After a detailed requirements phase, I completed the dashboard development and presented the product. Upon seeing the dashboards, he realized they didn’t quite hit the mark. Instead, he wanted some basic reports he could use for analysis.
Any gaps between developers and users can—and will—be filled with client expectations. Even weeks or months after the requirements phase ends, the user’s mind may still be churning. The user may be imagining the visual appeal of the final product, which could include drill-down capabilities, interactive graphs or automated report delivery—none of which were addressed during requirements.
Requirements constitute the cornerstone of any project. I typically use the metaphor of building a house when explaining to clients that requirements create the vision or foundation that drives the project from design to completion. Just as a successful custom home builder will involve his clients in all phases of the project from design to framing to finish, the successful technology team will actively engage the business users. Yet, so many projects struggle and fail when their vision is blurred and unclear. When I looked for some hard evidence on this, I found a scary statistic referenced from a MetaData study (now part of Gartner) that 60-80 percent of project failures can be attributed directly to poor requirements gathering, analysis, and management.