Handling “unclear requirements” problem in software development

For a software project to be successful, the requirements need to be broad enough to road-map the business need but detailed enough to allow the development team to code.

Below are best ways to handle unclear requirements:-

Develop Bit-Sized Requirements

In the current agile world of software, gone are the days of creating all the requirements before a project starts. Gone, too, should be the extensive requirement documents with hundreds of pages of text. Why?

Because the purpose of requirement documents is to clearly state what the business needs the software to do and how it should do it in a way that the development team can build it. Long, tedious documents filled with technical jargon tend to be signed off by business folks who do not read the document as it is too difficult to comprehend. They default to believing it must be correct since they told IT what they wanted, and the document should be the translation of that need

On the flip side, the developers don’t want to read all that either so most will flip through them, look at a few pictures, and then start coding. The problem gets worse with more experienced developers who will fill in much more of the information without reading it. Unfortunately, their attempt at efficiency can result in wrong functionality.

What does that leave us with? Two teams—business and development—with one thing in common: unread requirements. Instead, create bite-sized requirements that are easy to consume by both business and IT. Combine functionality into a scenario or story that makes sense to all and write the requirements using clear language shared by both tech and business. Using the established common language will allow you to spend your time on building, instead of rationalizing or defending.

Create Real Visuals

Project visuals are an important part of the requirements process. They start with sketches on whiteboards or with pencil and paper. These sketches become the wireframes the IT team will need to begin writing the code.

Unfortunately, while IT teams are used to working with lowfidelity mockups or wireframes, most people are not. Without significant experience creating software products, it is difficult to look at a sketch and be able to visualize the end product. In order to see what their product will look like, business members need a better visual. Whether you choose to create a few highfidelity images or stub out the actual application, you will want to showcase several strong visuals to your business team early.

By presenting stronger visuals in the beginning of the project, you have the opportunity to work together to make any changes before you build, and then need to rebuild, your pages. You will save considerable time and frustration by taking extra care at the start of the design.

Otherwise, you run the risk of a system that doesn’t match what was intended and isn’t discovered until the business begins user acceptance testing and can look at the results of what they asked for. You do not want the real design and requirements to begin at testing when the business is forced to choose between what they thought they asked for and what they received and must decide whether they pay for more work or subjugate their vision. Even if the team must deliver for no additional cost, you will still lose either on time or on expectation.