When you’re put in charge of implementing a new enterprise-wide system, you’re likely to end up as the office hero—or scapegoat. To a large extent, your fate will be determined by how well you handle one critical part of the project process: requirements analysis (RA).
In other words, the success of a system selection and implementation is dependent upon the way in which requirements are collected, analyzed, and documented at the beginning of the project. The question is this: can you do it yourself, or should you hire an expert?
A requirements Analysis Uncovers your association’s real needs
One of the first things you should do in requirements analysis is talk to your organization’s leadership and project team about goals and expectations for the new system. Ask probing questions like the following:
- How will the system further the organization’s mission and business objectives?
- What problems must it solve?
- What functions must it perform?
- Will it integrate with other systems or require customization?
The project lead must know how to uncover this information and guide the project team through difficult decisions. You must ask yourself whether one of your staff is fit to fulfill this role—and has the time, influence, and expertise to do so—or whether you need to hire a consultant who specializes in RA.
Gain staff cooperation and buy-in
When you put an inexperienced or potentially (albeit unknowingly) biased staff person in charge of a selection process, others may give all kinds of excuses for not attending project meetings, imply departmental favoritism, or refuse to even talk about business processes. If the person in charge of RA lacks objectivity and authority, your organization won’t end up with a clear and thorough assessment of your needs, and you’ll head into implementation with blind spots.
On the contrary, a seasoned business analyst (BA) will have a proven methodology for guiding everyone through the requirements process, as well as a fresh, objective perspective for analyzing the association’s business rules and processes. A BA knows which questions to ask to reveal issues and needs, and they can safely ask difficult questions. Using their deep knowledge of the association technology market, they know how to help associations leverage technology.
Establish a predictable budget and timeline
Often, when you’re thrown into a project or role without the appropriate experience or authority, you simply don’t know what you don’t know. You may think you have a solid understanding of your organization’s requirements and potential solutions, but then you realize through vendor discussions that your team hadn’t considered all the ramifications of the requirements. As a result, you spend more time wrangling with colleagues about details and processes, all while losing staff, leadership, or board buy-in.
You can anticipate and prevent hiccups like these. Thorough RA prevents the likelihood of ugly surprises down the road—surprises that could affect the project schedule and budget. Once the requirements have been agreed upon and documented, the risks of a project creeping beyond its original scope and failing to deliver upon expectations are minimized.
Avoid expensive customization
Don’t fall into the trap of following “the way it’s always been done.” A system implementation provides your organization the opportunity to take a new look at existing business rules and processes. If the best way to do things is a new way, then that’s what you should do.
Sometimes, changing a process also prevents having to customize a system or spend more money. In fact, modifying processes to avoid customization can free staff to focus on your mission-critical work. Isn’t that a plus?
Provide accurate information to vendors and developers.
Good RA takes the mystery out of the matchmaking process. When vendors know exactly what you need, they can provide relevant demonstrations and accurate proposals. Neither you nor the vendor will find out too late that additional functions or customizations must be added. What a relief!
When you are ready to select a solution, a thorough requirements analysis process will ensure that you have everything needed in the requirements documentation to evaluate proposals. The same documentation informs vendor demos and is then given to your chosen vendor. It tells them virtually everything they need to configure your system.
You can do RA yourself, but you risk mutiny and, more importantly, you risk misunderstanding how critical the requirements analysis process is to the success of a technology project—leading to a botched implementation and a wasted investment.
This blog was originally published in July 2014 and edited on 9.12.23.