No 1 Stakeholders Don’t Need Requirements

April 11, 2011

In every project I’ve been a part of, we’ve been working against requirements. Now I think this is regrettable, because what we should be doing is to satisfy needs. The reason for building a system is that some stakeholder has a need and thinks that we can fulfill the need through software. There are requirements as well, but these should never be our main driver.

  • Our first-line stakeholder needs to be able to retrieve data at a later point in time. Someone else imposes the requirement that all persistence should be done with Oracle products.
  • Our first-line stakeholder needs an intuitive user interface. Someone else imposes the requirement that the user interface must follow some predefined design guidelines.
  • Our first-line stakeholder needs a fast system. An integrated system requires that our solution responds within 5 milliseconds.

Requirements are the restrictions that other stakeholders impose on the system that we are building. Needs are “what’s” while requirements are “how’s”. We will have to satisfy different levels of stakeholders but the raison d’etre for our application is always the need of a first-line stakeholder. If the same person also has requirements, i.e thoughts on how we should solve the problem, we need to acknowledge that the person is wearing more than one hat and take this into consideration when prioritizing our backlog. A requirement should never trump the need that it relates to.

If we let the “how’s” take precedence over the “what’s”, we will build the wrong system.

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