How To
11 min read

How to Write an Effective Business Requirements Document

Kevin Jusino

October 20, 2022

Starting a new project but not sure how to get everything organized?

Then you should consider writing a business requirements document! This will help you lay out the key aspects of your company’s new initiative to ensure it’s a success for everyone involved.

However, before you start writing your BRD, it’s vital that you know what to include in it.

Fortunately, we’re here to help! In this guide, we’ll discuss how to write a proper business requirements document to make your outline clear, concise, and effective.

What is a business requirements document (BRD)?

A business requirements document is a formal document that captures the high-level needs of a project. 

It should succinctly detail for both business and technical stakeholders what a proposed system, process, or product is intending to accomplish. 

For example, a BRD could be used to document a company's requirements for a new software system to minimize interruptions during the switch.

Why should you write a business requirements document?

There are numerous benefits to having a BRD, including:

  • Improved communication between stakeholders
  • Greater clarity on what is required from the project
  • Better project planning and estimation

Regardless of whether the project is large or small, the BRD serves as an essential resource for everyone involved. 

By providing the 'who,' 'what,' and 'why' of a particular business problem or opportunity, teams can understand and agree upon the scope of their efforts before committing time and resources.

Without a BRD to fall back on as a reference, it would be too easy for team members to lose sight of the project's goals or, worse, develop conflicting interpretations of what needs to be done. 

As such, it's crucial for business leaders to develop a BRD if they want to keep their efforts streamlined. 

What should you include in a business requirements document?

Though there’s no one-size-fits-all template for creating a business requirements document, there are certain questions that should always be answered:

  • Why is this document needed?
  • Who is the audience? Are they internal or external stakeholders?
  • What is the purpose of this BRD? Is it meant to be read by executives, developers, or both? 

Note: It's also worth checking in with your company to see if it has an existing template you can use!

Next, let's review the elements you should include to answer those questions above and more.

Objectives

To clearly communicate project goals and requirements from both internal and external stakeholders, you'll need to start by listing your objectives right out of the gate. 

This helps readers immediately identify what you're trying to accomplish and review the rest of the document with proper context.

Even if it's as simple as creating a new product launch email campaign, remember that an objective is actionable and should be written as such. Avoid vague language or goals that are out of reach and could confuse readers.

If you need some help, try listing objectives that comply with SMART guidelines

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable (within reason)
  • Realistic (based on available resources and time)
  • Time bound (includes a deadline) 

Here are a few examples of what this might look like:

  • "To develop a new system to capture customer feedback electronically every month."
  • "To increase sales of a certain product by X% in the next quarter."
  • "To reduce customer churn by X% in the next year."

As you develop these, it's also worth considering any constraints that may limit your team's ability to achieve them. Write these down and save them for later.

Scope

Scope is a statement that defines the boundaries of your project. It outlines what you’ll do and not do, as well as what you’ll deliver and how you’ll deliver it. 

Scope can be developed in many ways. It can range from very broad statements like, “This project requires us to implement an enterprise resource scheduling system,” to specific statements like, “All employees must be able to login at their desks using their badges by 9:00 a.m. every morning.”

Keep in mind that the level of detail you include depends on:

  • Your audience
  • The purpose of the document
  • How developed your project is at the time of writing 

In general, however, it's a good idea to err on the side of too much information rather than too little.

Users

Next, you should identify and list the user groups who will be using your product or service and their roles in doing so. 

These users may include internal team members (such as an IT department), external customers (such as a retail store), or both.

You'll also want to know what kinds of challenges they face in accomplishing certain tasks. 

For example, a technician might have trouble finding time to update software on all computers in their department and would benefit from automating that process.

Stakeholders

In short, a stakeholder is any individual or group with a vested interest in the outcome of a project. They can be internal or external to your organization. 

For example, internal stakeholders might include members of the marketing team who want the product to be successful. On the other hand, external stakeholders could include customers who will use your product once it's released.

Each stakeholder group should receive their own requirements document, customized for their specific involvement in the project. 

There are a few different ways to do this, but we recommend using a stakeholder analysis matrix to separate and organize each group. This is a chart that lists all known stakeholders on one axis, and their level of interest and/or involvement in the project on the other. It looks something like this:

Name | Level of Interest/Involvement

Requirements

Now comes the tough part. This section is quite literally in the name of business requirements documents, which means you should prepare to spend a few hours (or even days) tackling it. 

Since this can be a lengthy step, it's best to start with broader elements before tackling the specifics.

A simple way to begin this process is by describing the problem or issue that needs solving. This will help stakeholders understand the reasoning behind certain requirements, as well as give you a chance to set expectations from the start.

Then, it's time to move on to more detailed information about what your product or service needs to achieve. Fortunately, you've already done half of the work with the scope and user groups you defined earlier! 

Based on this information, ask yourself: what does the user need in order to complete their tasks?

For example, if your project is a new software application, users will need a login page, access to certain features, buttons that do specific things when clicked, etc. By defining these requirements, you'll start to see a clearer picture of what your project will actually entail.

Need more help? Here are some additional questions you can ask yourself as you go through this step:

  • What features would make this task easier/faster/more convenient?
  • What information does the user need to get started? To finish?
  • Are there any legal/regulatory requirements that must be met?
  • What happens if something goes wrong?

Constraints

Your constraints are the things that can't be changed. 

Whether you're creating a product to sell or a solution for your company, constraints will affect every decision you make. As such, you need to include these in your BRD to prove you're prepared for every future curveball that might come your way.

There are three main types of constraints you need to be aware of:

  • Time: This includes schedules, deadlines, and release dates (anything that's time-sensitive).
  • Cost: This is usually determined by your budget. For example, if you only have $100 to spend on a project, certain requirements may have to be cut.
  • People: These are the individuals needed to complete your project. For example, if you're developing a new website, you'll need designers, developers, and content creators on your team.

Keep in mind, these are just examples. There are an endless number of constraints that might apply to your specific project, so make sure you do your research! 

Some additional examples include:

  • Legal requirements that must be met before launching a product
  • Infrastructure that's already in place and must be removed/altered/exchanged
  • Existing processes or systems that must be compatible with the new product
  • Materials that must be sourced to complete the project

Remember, these constraints aren't set in stone; they can (and usually do) change as a project progresses. What's important is that you document them so everyone involved is aware of what can happen and how these challenges can be faced.

Approach and strategy

Your approach and strategy are closely related, but they're not the same thing. Your approach is how you plan to complete the project, while your strategy defines why you're taking that specific approach in the first place.

To put it another way: your approach is the "what," while your strategy is the "why."

The approach and strategy must include:

  • The steps you'll take to complete the project
  • The order in which those steps will be taken
  • Who will be responsible for each step
  • When each step will be completed
  • Your reasoning for taking this specific approach (your strategy)
  • Why this is the best way to complete the project

It's worth connecting with your stakeholders before starting this step, as they can provide relevant information that helps you answer some of these questions. This could be done via brainstorming sessions, workshops, and more. 

Once you've collected enough opinions, ideas, and other thoughts, take some time to analyze them, and figure out which ones will help you complete the project most effectively.

Tracking progress

It’s important to have a system in place that tracks your project’s progress, including changes and revisions. This way, you can go back and reference what was done, why it was done, and when.

There are many different ways to track performance; the key is finding one that works for you and your team. For example, you might consider using a tool like Google Drive to store information on a collaborative document or using project management software to assign and keep track of tasks.

No matter what system you use, make sure it's accessible to everyone on your team. That way, no one feels left out of the loop, and important information isn't missed.

Planning for the future

Finally, it's a good idea to include how you'll handle future updates, changes, or revisions in your BRD. This ensures stakeholders are clear on how they can make modifications without negatively affecting the final product. 

For example, if you're developing a web application, it might be helpful to specify that new features can be incorporated by adding new pages or by modifying existing ones. 

Ultimately, the best way of handling changes depends on your specific situation and what's important at your current stage of development. For example, is time more valuable than perfecting fine details at this stage? 

As such, this section is another one that will constantly be edited as your project continues.

Business requirements document example

Here is an example of an early-version business requirements document to give you a better idea of what they look like in practice. 

Feel free to use this as a template for your own BRD!

Project summary:

  • Objective: Develop an iOS app that allows users to order food from restaurants in their area in less than 5 taps.
  • Scope: The app will need to be able to show a list of nearby restaurants, allow the user to select one, and then display the menu. The user should be able to add items to their cart and submit their order, which will then be sent to the restaurant for confirmation. 
  • Users: The app will be aimed at people who want to order food without having to talk to a person on the phone or in person.
  • Stakeholders: Restaurants, App users/customers 
  • Restrictions: Restaurants: The app will need to be able to integrate with the restaurant's existing ordering system so that orders can be placed directly into their system. App users/customers: The app will need to be available on iOS devices. 
  • Constraints: The app development will need to be completed in 6 weeks on a budget of $500,000, with 20 employees involved in development.
  • Approach and strategy: We will use agile development methodology to complete the project through two-week sprints. The first sprint will focus on developing the user interface and setting up the back-end infrastructure. In the second sprint, we will add the functionality for restaurants to confirm orders and push notifications. The third sprint will be dedicated to testing and launch.
  • Tracking progress: We will use X software to track our project progress and manage our backlog.
  • Future considerations: We anticipate adding new features such as the ability to pay using Apple Pay. 

Final thoughts

A well-written business requirements document is essential for any project. After all, it’s the foundation that your team’s efforts are built on and sets the tone for how the project will progress. 

By using this guide to write a comprehensive BRD, you can avoid misunderstandings and disagreements down the line.

If you need help getting started, be sure to use Copy.AI's free AI writing tools to take your professional documents to the next level!

How To
11 min read

How to Write an Effective Business Requirements Document

Kevin Jusino
October 20, 2022

Starting a new project but not sure how to get everything organized?

Then you should consider writing a business requirements document! This will help you lay out the key aspects of your company’s new initiative to ensure it’s a success for everyone involved.

However, before you start writing your BRD, it’s vital that you know what to include in it.

Fortunately, we’re here to help! In this guide, we’ll discuss how to write a proper business requirements document to make your outline clear, concise, and effective.

What is a business requirements document (BRD)?

A business requirements document is a formal document that captures the high-level needs of a project. 

It should succinctly detail for both business and technical stakeholders what a proposed system, process, or product is intending to accomplish. 

For example, a BRD could be used to document a company's requirements for a new software system to minimize interruptions during the switch.

Why should you write a business requirements document?

There are numerous benefits to having a BRD, including:

  • Improved communication between stakeholders
  • Greater clarity on what is required from the project
  • Better project planning and estimation

Regardless of whether the project is large or small, the BRD serves as an essential resource for everyone involved. 

By providing the 'who,' 'what,' and 'why' of a particular business problem or opportunity, teams can understand and agree upon the scope of their efforts before committing time and resources.

Without a BRD to fall back on as a reference, it would be too easy for team members to lose sight of the project's goals or, worse, develop conflicting interpretations of what needs to be done. 

As such, it's crucial for business leaders to develop a BRD if they want to keep their efforts streamlined. 

What should you include in a business requirements document?

Though there’s no one-size-fits-all template for creating a business requirements document, there are certain questions that should always be answered:

  • Why is this document needed?
  • Who is the audience? Are they internal or external stakeholders?
  • What is the purpose of this BRD? Is it meant to be read by executives, developers, or both? 

Note: It's also worth checking in with your company to see if it has an existing template you can use!

Next, let's review the elements you should include to answer those questions above and more.

Objectives

To clearly communicate project goals and requirements from both internal and external stakeholders, you'll need to start by listing your objectives right out of the gate. 

This helps readers immediately identify what you're trying to accomplish and review the rest of the document with proper context.

Even if it's as simple as creating a new product launch email campaign, remember that an objective is actionable and should be written as such. Avoid vague language or goals that are out of reach and could confuse readers.

If you need some help, try listing objectives that comply with SMART guidelines

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable (within reason)
  • Realistic (based on available resources and time)
  • Time bound (includes a deadline) 

Here are a few examples of what this might look like:

  • "To develop a new system to capture customer feedback electronically every month."
  • "To increase sales of a certain product by X% in the next quarter."
  • "To reduce customer churn by X% in the next year."

As you develop these, it's also worth considering any constraints that may limit your team's ability to achieve them. Write these down and save them for later.

Scope

Scope is a statement that defines the boundaries of your project. It outlines what you’ll do and not do, as well as what you’ll deliver and how you’ll deliver it. 

Scope can be developed in many ways. It can range from very broad statements like, “This project requires us to implement an enterprise resource scheduling system,” to specific statements like, “All employees must be able to login at their desks using their badges by 9:00 a.m. every morning.”

Keep in mind that the level of detail you include depends on:

  • Your audience
  • The purpose of the document
  • How developed your project is at the time of writing 

In general, however, it's a good idea to err on the side of too much information rather than too little.

Users

Next, you should identify and list the user groups who will be using your product or service and their roles in doing so. 

These users may include internal team members (such as an IT department), external customers (such as a retail store), or both.

You'll also want to know what kinds of challenges they face in accomplishing certain tasks. 

For example, a technician might have trouble finding time to update software on all computers in their department and would benefit from automating that process.

Stakeholders

In short, a stakeholder is any individual or group with a vested interest in the outcome of a project. They can be internal or external to your organization. 

For example, internal stakeholders might include members of the marketing team who want the product to be successful. On the other hand, external stakeholders could include customers who will use your product once it's released.

Each stakeholder group should receive their own requirements document, customized for their specific involvement in the project. 

There are a few different ways to do this, but we recommend using a stakeholder analysis matrix to separate and organize each group. This is a chart that lists all known stakeholders on one axis, and their level of interest and/or involvement in the project on the other. It looks something like this:

Name | Level of Interest/Involvement

Requirements

Now comes the tough part. This section is quite literally in the name of business requirements documents, which means you should prepare to spend a few hours (or even days) tackling it. 

Since this can be a lengthy step, it's best to start with broader elements before tackling the specifics.

A simple way to begin this process is by describing the problem or issue that needs solving. This will help stakeholders understand the reasoning behind certain requirements, as well as give you a chance to set expectations from the start.

Then, it's time to move on to more detailed information about what your product or service needs to achieve. Fortunately, you've already done half of the work with the scope and user groups you defined earlier! 

Based on this information, ask yourself: what does the user need in order to complete their tasks?

For example, if your project is a new software application, users will need a login page, access to certain features, buttons that do specific things when clicked, etc. By defining these requirements, you'll start to see a clearer picture of what your project will actually entail.

Need more help? Here are some additional questions you can ask yourself as you go through this step:

  • What features would make this task easier/faster/more convenient?
  • What information does the user need to get started? To finish?
  • Are there any legal/regulatory requirements that must be met?
  • What happens if something goes wrong?

Constraints

Your constraints are the things that can't be changed. 

Whether you're creating a product to sell or a solution for your company, constraints will affect every decision you make. As such, you need to include these in your BRD to prove you're prepared for every future curveball that might come your way.

There are three main types of constraints you need to be aware of:

  • Time: This includes schedules, deadlines, and release dates (anything that's time-sensitive).
  • Cost: This is usually determined by your budget. For example, if you only have $100 to spend on a project, certain requirements may have to be cut.
  • People: These are the individuals needed to complete your project. For example, if you're developing a new website, you'll need designers, developers, and content creators on your team.

Keep in mind, these are just examples. There are an endless number of constraints that might apply to your specific project, so make sure you do your research! 

Some additional examples include:

  • Legal requirements that must be met before launching a product
  • Infrastructure that's already in place and must be removed/altered/exchanged
  • Existing processes or systems that must be compatible with the new product
  • Materials that must be sourced to complete the project

Remember, these constraints aren't set in stone; they can (and usually do) change as a project progresses. What's important is that you document them so everyone involved is aware of what can happen and how these challenges can be faced.

Approach and strategy

Your approach and strategy are closely related, but they're not the same thing. Your approach is how you plan to complete the project, while your strategy defines why you're taking that specific approach in the first place.

To put it another way: your approach is the "what," while your strategy is the "why."

The approach and strategy must include:

  • The steps you'll take to complete the project
  • The order in which those steps will be taken
  • Who will be responsible for each step
  • When each step will be completed
  • Your reasoning for taking this specific approach (your strategy)
  • Why this is the best way to complete the project

It's worth connecting with your stakeholders before starting this step, as they can provide relevant information that helps you answer some of these questions. This could be done via brainstorming sessions, workshops, and more. 

Once you've collected enough opinions, ideas, and other thoughts, take some time to analyze them, and figure out which ones will help you complete the project most effectively.

Tracking progress

It’s important to have a system in place that tracks your project’s progress, including changes and revisions. This way, you can go back and reference what was done, why it was done, and when.

There are many different ways to track performance; the key is finding one that works for you and your team. For example, you might consider using a tool like Google Drive to store information on a collaborative document or using project management software to assign and keep track of tasks.

No matter what system you use, make sure it's accessible to everyone on your team. That way, no one feels left out of the loop, and important information isn't missed.

Planning for the future

Finally, it's a good idea to include how you'll handle future updates, changes, or revisions in your BRD. This ensures stakeholders are clear on how they can make modifications without negatively affecting the final product. 

For example, if you're developing a web application, it might be helpful to specify that new features can be incorporated by adding new pages or by modifying existing ones. 

Ultimately, the best way of handling changes depends on your specific situation and what's important at your current stage of development. For example, is time more valuable than perfecting fine details at this stage? 

As such, this section is another one that will constantly be edited as your project continues.

Business requirements document example

Here is an example of an early-version business requirements document to give you a better idea of what they look like in practice. 

Feel free to use this as a template for your own BRD!

Project summary:

  • Objective: Develop an iOS app that allows users to order food from restaurants in their area in less than 5 taps.
  • Scope: The app will need to be able to show a list of nearby restaurants, allow the user to select one, and then display the menu. The user should be able to add items to their cart and submit their order, which will then be sent to the restaurant for confirmation. 
  • Users: The app will be aimed at people who want to order food without having to talk to a person on the phone or in person.
  • Stakeholders: Restaurants, App users/customers 
  • Restrictions: Restaurants: The app will need to be able to integrate with the restaurant's existing ordering system so that orders can be placed directly into their system. App users/customers: The app will need to be available on iOS devices. 
  • Constraints: The app development will need to be completed in 6 weeks on a budget of $500,000, with 20 employees involved in development.
  • Approach and strategy: We will use agile development methodology to complete the project through two-week sprints. The first sprint will focus on developing the user interface and setting up the back-end infrastructure. In the second sprint, we will add the functionality for restaurants to confirm orders and push notifications. The third sprint will be dedicated to testing and launch.
  • Tracking progress: We will use X software to track our project progress and manage our backlog.
  • Future considerations: We anticipate adding new features such as the ability to pay using Apple Pay. 

Final thoughts

A well-written business requirements document is essential for any project. After all, it’s the foundation that your team’s efforts are built on and sets the tone for how the project will progress. 

By using this guide to write a comprehensive BRD, you can avoid misunderstandings and disagreements down the line.

If you need help getting started, be sure to use Copy.AI's free AI writing tools to take your professional documents to the next level!

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