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Writing Better Requirements in Plain English

Avoid the Number One Cause of IT Project Failures and Overruns (Series: Writing Effective Requirements for IT Solutions)
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Last updated 8/2014
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  • 40 mins on-demand video
  • 6 Articles
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What Will I Learn?
Explain the value and benefits of good requirement statements
Reduce the number of wrong assumptions by using a question file
Create a common understanding of your requirements by writing well-formed requirement statements
Express requirements at the right level of detail using the "what-not-how" rule
Identify components of a business information system to find missing requirements
Confirm that your requirements are in scope for your project
Apply 3 simple rules to create technology-independent, component-focused requirements
View Curriculum
  • No technical background required
  • Desire to define user requirements for IT
  • Interest in the field of business analysis
  • HTML5 compatible browser for exercises (quizzes)
  • No additional materials are required

Requirements define the future. They express conditions that their author expects the future to fulfill. Unfortunately, the word “requirement” has become a four-letter-word in many organizations, particularly when the requirements define a future Information Technology (IT) application. The reason? Nearly every independently executed, root-cause analysis of IT project problems and failures in the past half-century have identified “misunderstood or incomplete requirements” as the primary cause. This has made requirements the bane of many projects. The real problem is the subtle differences between “understanding” someone else’s requirement and “sharing a common understanding” with the author.

"Writing Better Requirements in Plain English" gives you a set of 3 simple rules that will make your requirement statements more easily understood by all target audiences. The focus is to increase the “common understanding” between the author of a requirement and the solution providers (e.g., in-house or outsourced IT designers, developers, analysts, and vendors).

This course is the first in a series of three that will dramatically reduce the failure rate of projects suffering from poor requirements. Regardless of your job title or role, if you are tasked with communicating your future needs to others, this course will help. It is interactive (includes exercises with instant feedback), instructionally designed (based on modern learning theory), and "intellimated™" (uses animated visuals with an accompanying audio track) to hold your interest and increase retention.

Who is the target audience?
  • Subject Matter Experts
  • Product Owners
  • Business Process Managers
  • Business Process Users
  • Product and Project Managers
  • Line Managers
  • Business System Analysts
  • Anyone wearing the BA hat!
Students Who Viewed This Course Also Viewed
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 15 Lectures Collapse All 15 Lectures 44:04
Setting the Stage
4 Lectures 18:17
  • Introduction
  • Learning Objectives
  • The Problem with Requirements
  • The Benefits of Effective Requirements

"An Overview of Business Analysis for Information Technology" below is a video that will give you a bird’s-eyes view of the field of Business Analysis including requirements. The other links are articles on the problems and/or benefits of requirements.

Preview 06:22

  • The Uncertainty Principle
  • What Do You Really Know?
  • THE Question File
Preview 08:14

This exercise will make you aware of how challenging effective communication can be.

Exercise: The Subjectivity of Language

A brief look at some real-life examples of communication problems.

The "Real" Problem with Requirements
Capturing Requirements
4 Lectures 12:58
  • Express Each Requirement as a Simple Sentence
  • Reducing Complexity Increases Comprehension
  • A Complete Sentence Forces a Complete Thought
  • Structured Requirement Statements

Are you working in an Agile Environment? The video "User Stories: Agile Requirements Definition (Part 1)" below might interest you:

Follow the KISS concept

This exercise will test your interpretation of Rule 1.

Preview 00:29

  • Focus on “What”, Not “How”
  • Consider the Business Result, Not the IT Solution

This lecture introduces the second rule for writing better requirements in plain English. For those working in an Agile environment, watch our YouTube video below (User Stories: What, Not How) that describes rule 2 using User Stories.

Define the Business Need

This exercise will test your interpretation of Rule 2.

Exercise: Avoiding the Elusive “How”
Requirements and Project Scope
4 Lectures 09:22
  • Enforce Your Project Scope
  • The Project Scope Statement
  • Defining Scope at the Component Level
Keep Your Requirements in Scope

This exercise will test your ability to brainstorm common components of a business solution containing an IT application.

Exercise: Relevant Requirement Components

  • Focused Requirements Minimize Misinterpretations
  • Relevant Requirements Reduce Project Effort
  • Identifying Relevant Requirements

If you are working in an Agile environment you might be more interested in our video below "User Stories: Defining IT Requirements (Part 3)".

Combat Scope Creep from the Start

This exercise will test your ability to extrapolate components from requirement statements.

Exercise: Testing the Scope Boundaries
In Closing
3 Lectures 02:10

Presents a detailed overview of the first three rules for writing better requirements in plain English.

"Writing Requirements" is a small part of the field of business analysis. If you would like to know more about other common business analysis techniques watch our very popular YouTube video below (What Techniques Do Business Analysts Use? )

Summary: An Effective Business Requirement

This comprehensive exercise will test your interpretation of all three rules combined by presenting you with a different scenario and a set of associated requirement statements.

Exercise: Final Exam

The material covered in this course is also available as an instructor-led course (see below - Online BA training How To Write Effective User Requirements for IT BA-EXPERTS).

If you are working in an Agile environment you might be more interested in our instructor-led course "Techniques for Eliciting, Documenting, and Analyzing Stakeholder Needs in User Story Format" (see below - Online BA training How To Write Effective User Requirements for IT BA-EXPERTS).

The remainder of links are additional tips on the topic of "Writing Effective Requirements".

Thank You and Contact Info
About the Instructor
4.1 Average rating
110 Reviews
2,001 Students
8 Courses
BA-EXPERTS: Business Analysis for Anyone Wearing the BA Hat

Tom has been in business analysis since long before it was called business analysis. He has over 30 years experience in the fields of information technology, methodologies, and business analysis. In his writings and lectures he strives for enlightening while entertaining. As a facilitator, he achieves results through inclusion and synergistic group-building. He has taught thousands of students business and systems analysis skills since the '80's and has facilitated hundreds of requirements discovery sessions under a variety of acronyms (JAD, ASAP, JADr, JRP, etc).

Angela and Tom Hathaway (previously Hathaway & Associates, Inc. and Requirements Solutions Group, LLC) founded BA-EXPERTS in 2011. As a team, Angela and Tom have trained, consulted, mentored and coached thousands of business analysts around the world for organizations from small businesses to Fortune 100. Hundreds of current and past customers include TIAA-CREF (Financial), Cathay Pacific (Airline), Manitoba Telecom Services (Telecommunications), Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Hospitality), government agencies, and a myriad of organizations spanning all sizes and industries. Our training, consulting, and mentoring efforts have saved our customers around the world millions and can help your organization improve its business analysis practices

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