In 1995, the Standish Group’s Chaos Report said, “Requirements problems have been proven to contribute to 20-25% of all project failures. The average project overran its budget 189% and its schedule by 222%”
In 2004, the same group’s Chaos Chronicles reported:
Only 34% of projects expected to finish on time; 52% had proposed functionality; 82% had time overruns; 43% had budget overruns.
A February 2009 article by Jeff Roster, a member of the Gartner Blog Network, revealed 2008 worldwide IT spending statistics broken out by industry segment. The article predicted the growth rates through 2012 in IT spend for these industries which range from a low of 2.8% for manufacturing to 5.2% for Utilities. In 2008, total IT investment was just under $1.9 trillion dollars in these market segments which do not take into account government spending.
If we apply the conservative 1995 Chaos Report metric of 25% for project failures to the 2008 spending statistic, it means that we can estimate that in 2008 $475 billion dollars was spent on failed or canceled projects worldwide. The vast majority of these project failures can be attributed to poor requirements.
As an operational definition, good requirements are cohesive, complete, consistent, correct, feasible, modifiable, necessary, prioritized, reusable, testable, traceable, verifiable and unambiguous. If requirements aren’t captured to this high standard, rework or project failure is the natural consequence. Good requirements are not captured by walking into a room and asking “What are your requirements?” Requirements elicitation is a process that must be mastered. It is not an exercise in filling out a template.
The Information Architecture Group located in New Castle, Delaware, is one of the 28 founding members of the International Institute of Business Analysis, a heavy contributor to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge and a thought leader in requirements maturity best practices. In 2008, IAG conducted a survey of over 100 larger companies with development projects in excess of $250,000 where significant new functionality was delivered to the organization. The average project size was $3 million. This 2008 benchmark concluded:
In absolute terms, the quality of requirements will dictate the time and cost of the solution.
Companies that have achieved “Excellence across 5 categories of elicitation competency” realize the greatest success rates. IAG said:
Simply put, a project manager increases their chance of getting an “unqualified success” by over 400% by using elite analysts with specific competencies at the start of requirements discovery.
In Chapters 3 through 5 of The Ultimate Guide to the SDLC, I teach best practice competencies in requirements elicitation. It also includes a comprehensive checklist to be used not only as a guideline for writing requirements, but as a quality checklist for assuring each requirement meets the operation definition of good requirements. Do you want to achieve unqualified project successes, then take your processes to the next level of maturity.
Download the Requirements Verification Checklist to use with your your requirements elicitation efforts.
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