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.
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.
There are numerous benefits to having a BRD, including:
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.
Though there’s no one-size-fits-all template for creating a business requirements document, there are certain questions that should always be answered:
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.
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:
Here are a few examples of what this might look like:
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 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:
In general, however, it's a good idea to err on the side of too much information rather than too little.
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.
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
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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