Importance of requirement assurance in product selection
Introduction:• The IT strategy of an organization may dictate that Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) products bebought to service business requirements.• Once a decision is made on build vs. buy, organizations expect that having a well drafted RFPwould lead to the selection of the most appropriate product.• The consequent impact in such a situation is that product selection dictates requirementsdefinition and refinement rather than business requirements directing product selection andimplementation.• In such situations, organizations end up buying products that may not be the best t for theirbusiness needs and end up facing the consequences of wrong product selections.• This presentation highlights the importance of having well documented requirements in placeand highlights the important role of requirements in the various stages of product selectionprocess.
Benefits of having Well Defined Requirements in Pre-ProductSelection Phase :At the time of documenting requirements, the functional requirements should be grouped basedon priority. Mandatory and essential sub-groups should be of higher priority. Non-functionalrequirements grouped in a similar manner help evaluate a product on dimensions of performance,scalability and reliability. Having well documented requirements prior to the product selectionprocess helps in the following manner:
Benefits of having Well Defined Requirements in Pre-ProductSelection Phase :• Reduce the number of products under consideration at an early stage based on a preliminaryevaluation. For example, products that do not meet compliance requirements would not qualify tobe shortlisted. Similarly, products that would not meet technical requirements can be discardedfrom the consideration set at this stage itself. Certain database and hardware considerations wouldbe a constraining factor during product selection and these can be easily identified from non-functional requirements and constraints in the requirements catalogue.• If requirements are not defined in reasonable detail (both functional and non-functional) theselected product vendor later drives the requirements - largely driven by the product featuresavailable. This results in organizations trying to t their business requirements to the productfeatures, resulting in an incorrect / sub-optimal product choice that does not meet all businessrequirements.• Help evolve standard screening criteria by eliminating subjectivity during evaluation. This can beachieved through assignment of appropriate weights to various critical parameters during theselection / scoring process. Product with capabilities that meet vital / critical / importantcategories of requirements would score higher during selection.
Benefits of having Well Defined Requirements in Pre-ProductSelection Phase :• Ignore product capabilities that are not relevant to the solution requirements. Over 64% ofproduct features are not used by organizations post implementation, according to a study done byStandish Group in 2009. Having well defined requirements would prevent unnecessaryexpenditure on implementing features that do not serve any purpose.• Identify product capabilities that will enhance current business processes. These features can betaken advantage of to augment and refine business processes that can result in greaterefficiencies.• This is the phase where business needs to invest time and resources. Once the product selectionphase commences, the responsibilities get diluted between business and IT. Better quality ofrequirements definition by business early will result in better quality of delivery from ITorganizations both in product selection and later downstream project phases .
Benefits of having Well Defined Requirements in Pre-ProductSelection Phase :In summary, having well documented requirements helps draw up a preliminary shortlist ofproducts that need to be investigated further for suitability, by easing the evaluation process andmaking the scoring process objective.
Role of Requirements during Product Walkthrough :• This phase of the project is the most important. Once there is an initial shortlist of products, thisis the time when the project team is able to explore the product features by conducting a detailedproduct walkthrough of the shortlisted products.• This walkthrough can be driven by the detailed requirements checklist which focuses on productfunctions. At the end of this process, the project team would be able to identify the list of productmodifications and interfaces.• Some of the requirements would be met through configurations, some would entail customdevelopment / customization and there would be some features that need to be taken up at a laterdate as enhancement.• Product walkthrough sessions can be productive if requirements had been documented in thefirst place. This would enable the project team to arrive at meaningful conclusions when comparingvarious competing products by using the same yardstick for comparison.• Another important advantage is that these sessions would be guided by the organization’sproject requirements and not be driven by product features that vendors offer.
Role of Requirements in Product Implementation :• Upon completion of the product walkthrough and finalization of product selection, the projectteam can prioritize the implementation phases of the product based on the pricing received fromthe vendor for customizations and configurations.• Based on the requirements priority, the project team can make an informed decision on thoseitems that would be in scope and prioritize the releases. Having detailed requirements done aheadof the implementation helps the project team negotiate and decide the scope of the solution withthe stakeholders instead of letting the product features dictate the solution scope.• Depending on the time to market requirements and the budget constraints, the project teammay decide to pursue a release strategy that addresses critical requirements first (for example,compliance related requirements) and subsequently address the roll out of less criticalrequirements that may also require customization efforts from the product vendor.
Conclusion:It would be worthwhile for organizations to spend time on requirements documentation prior tothe process of product selection. The RFP and the subsequent product selection process should bedriven by the requirements documented earlier. Allowing the product vendor to define / influencethe requirements process leads to a wrong product selection, consequences of which would belack of alignment of the technology organization to business.