Business Analyst Interview Question: Can you tell us what the factors are that you think go into writing a good requirement?
A good requirement is one that involves all stakeholders. It’s also one that correctly describes the need that the business is trying to address. Everyone involved should contribute to documenting the requirement and should ultimately sign off on it.
It’s important that the requirement correctly reflect what the business is looking for. But it’s not just enough to document a business need. In addition, the requirement should be:
- Specific. It must concretely describe the business need, without vagueness. It must target a specific capability, area, function, or thing for improvement in a provable manner.
- Measurable. A requirement is worthless if you can’t measure it. You have to look at the solution and be able to concretely answer “yes” or “no” as to whether the solution meets the requirement or not. It can’t be “pie in the sky” or aspirational. There has to be some metric or indicator that shows that the solution successfully meets the stated requirement.
- Achievable. It’s no good if a requirement is specific and measurable but is impossible to achieve. Maybe it would take too much money, or more staff than what is available. A requirement has to fit within the politics and constraints of the environment.
- Relevant. The requirement must be within the scope of the project. While a requirement may improve on a solution and meet the other criteria, it may nevertheless be “ruled out” for other reasons. Maybe the business wants to implement it at some point in the future but not right now, or maybe the expense of the improvement outweighs its value (even if it’s achievable). Additionally, the requirement must be traceable to an actual source (a person, a strategic goal, a business objective, etc.)
- Time-bound. The requirement must specify the time limits for achieving it.
The more of these criteria met by the requirement, the better it will be in thoroughly describing a business need.
The acronym formed by the first letter of the five criteria above is SMART. These criteria were originally developed in a paper related to performance management (Doran, G. T. (1981). “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives”. Management Review. AMA FORUM. 70 (11): 35–36.) It has since been adapted to a variety of other uses in other works, including for the development of good requirements.
SMART criteria provide a good rule of thumb for framing a quick answer to a Business Analyst interview question on what makes a great requirement.