Ever assembled a piece of furniture without the instruction manual? Each piece seems important, but how do all the components fit together?
Starting a project without a clear plan or direction is just like that — riddled with uncertainties. However, a business requirement document helps you gain clarity and a sense of direction.
In this guide, we break down the essentials of a business requirement document and discuss how it becomes the backbone of any successful project.
What is a business requirement document?
Every successful project starts with a clear vision and plan for getting there.
A business requirement document is a detailed document that outlines the project objectives and needs, as well as how it’ll work. It consolidates and organizes all the project’s moving elements into one place.
Why is it important to have a business requirement document?
Project managers have a lot on their plate. Nearly 60% of them run between two and five projects simultaneously.
Without a clear guide, things can get messy — and fast.
So, ultimately, a business requirement document keeps all stakeholders aligned on a project. It acts as a reference point, reducing potential misunderstandings and setting a clear path for everyone on the team to follow.
Business requirements vs. other requirements
A business requirement document provides a high-level view of a project’s business solution. While it paints a broad picture, it’s just one of several documents needed for effective project management.
As your project progresses and evolves, other specialized documents may step in to address specific aspects in finer detail.
Here are just some of the requirement types you might need to outline:
Functional requirements are the step-by-step guide — or the “how” of the process. They cover specific tasks, detailing how each feature of a product or system will function.
For example, if your project is to build new software, the functional requirements could describe how users would log in, how data would be saved, and how the search feature would work.
Each project is ultimately designed for a set of users or consumers.
User requirements capture end-users’ needs and expectations. They explain what users want and expect from the project or product. Part of this is also addressing pain points the users might have faced before. This could be as simple as wanting to find an item easily on an online store or being able to quickly edit a document using certain software.
Product requirements offer details about the product itself, such as its main features and purpose. For a new smartphone, this could include its screen size, battery life, and camera quality.
These details are important for design and marketing teams to shape the final product and promote it to potential customers.
Lastly, there are the non-functional requirements, which focus on the overall quality and performance of a product or project. They describe how well a system can operate under certain conditions and constraints.
For a software product, this could include maintaining speed with thousands of users at once, bolstering security to protect against potential hacks, or guaranteeing accessibility for those with disabilities.
What should a business requirement document include?
A comprehensive business requirement document has eight main components. Let’s break down each one and go over its do’s and don’ts:
1. Executive summary
The executive summary is a snapshot of your entire project. This section offers a concise description of what the project is about, who it’s for, and what you expect to achieve. It’s like an elevator pitch for anyone who might not have the time to read the entire document.
- Keep it short and straight to the point.
- Highlight the project’s primary objectives and expected benefits.
- Mention the key project stakeholders or departments involved.
- Get technical.
- Use unnecessary jargon — the goal is to make the summary clear and easy for everyone on the team to understand, regardless of their role.
- Overpromise or oversell the expected outcomes.
2. Project objectives
Project objectives are the clearly defined goals that you aim to meet by the end of the project. Clear objectives will help guide your team’s efforts and remind everyone what they are working toward.
Project objectives are usually tied to key performance indicators (KPIs), which ensure that each goal has a measurable outcome that reflects the project’s overall health and progress.
- Make each objective SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Align the project objectives with the business objectives.
- Clarify and distinguish between the project’s primary and secondary objectives.
- Be overly broad or vague.
- Set objectives without considering the available resources.
- Set too many objectives, as that might dilute focus.
3. Project scope
Think of a project scope as the lines on a soccer field. You know where the game is played and what’s considered out-of-bounds.
A well-defined project scope marks what’s included in the project and what’s left out, helping your team focus on the core objectives. Stating both the inclusions and the exclusions helps avoid mission creep — a situation where a project is unintentionally expanded beyond its original objectives.
- Clearly list what is and isn’t included.
- Regularly revisit and update the scope as needed, especially if changes occur.
- Include all stakeholders when determining the project scope so that you don’t overlook key details.
- Assume something’s included without documenting it.
- Make changes to the scope without proper review and approval.
- Forget to communicate any changes or clarifications to the project team.
4. Business requirements
Business requirements are the heart — or must-haves — of your project. They detail what your business needs to address, change, or accomplish to achieve project success. All tasks, from the initial brainstorming session to the final execution, should be mapped out.
Tools like Motion can help streamline the entire task management process. Motion uses automation to help you prioritize the most important tasks in a project and delegate them to the appropriate team members.
- Frame requirements in measurable terms. Instead of “improve the user experience,” specify that you’d like to “shorten the checkout process by two steps.”
- Identify and document how the business requirements can affect one another.
- Use an automation tool like Motion to make task management easier.
- Finalize business requirements without first getting feedback from stakeholders and end-users.
- Forget to consider scalability for future growth.
5. Key stakeholders
Key stakeholders are individuals or groups with a vested interest in the project. They can be top-level decision-makers or the end-users who directly benefit from the project’s final output.
Including key stakeholders in your business requirement document will let the team know who holds an important stake in the project’s success. It’ll also help the team more effectively address the needs and expectations of those most impacted.
- Identify all relevant stakeholders
- Provide a clear description of each stakeholder’s role and responsibilities
- Make sure stakeholders’ interests and concerns are considered throughout the project lifecycle.
- Underestimate the impact that stakeholders have on project success.
- Omit any significant stakeholder groups.
- Assume that all stakeholders share the same goals or concerns without verification.
6. Schedule and timeline
The schedule and timeline section should detail the major project milestones and expected project completion date.
It’s important to include this information because timelines offer a structured project overview that makes project planning and execution easy. As a result, the team can be sure of the project’s progression and deadlines.
Staying on top of your project schedule can be challenging, especially when managing multiple tasks and deadlines. Motion helps you track project progress in real time so you are always aware of the project’s status and can make timely adjustments when needed.
- Define your milestones and purpose in clear detail.
- Set realistic, achievable deadlines.
- Regularly update your schedule and timeline throughout the project.
- Be rigid about schedules or timelines changing. These things happen.
- Add irrelevant milestones that don’t directly contribute to the project’s progress.
7. Project constraints
Project constraints occur when you identify potential barriers or limitations that might affect the project. These constraints can come in various forms, including budget restrictions, technical limitations, and poor resource allocation. Identifying these constraints upfront prepares all stakeholders to understand the project’s challenges and make informed decisions.
- Present a realistic assessment of each constraint.
- Order the constraints from biggest potential impact to smallest.
- Include initial ideas on how each constraint can potentially be addressed or mitigated.
- Downplay the identified constraints.
- Be overly pessimistic. This may cause unnecessary panic or lower team morale.
8. Cost-benefit analysis
Cost-benefit analysis involves comparing a project’s expected costs to its projected benefits. It’s essentially the project’s value proposition.
Surprisingly, one in five project managers admit to struggling with accurately “scoring” the value of a project — meaning that 20% of projects may have an unknown or incorrect project value.
The cost-benefit analysis section of a business requirement document exists to help ensure that the stakeholders have a clear understanding of the financial implications and potential returns associated with the project.
- Thoroughly research and collect data (use reliable sources).
- Express costs and benefits in measurable terms, such as monetary values or specific metrics.
- Consider both the direct financial costs and indirect factors that may influence the project’s value proposition.
- Rush through the analysis and present inaccurate calculations.
- Focus solely on quantitative data. Qualitative factors, like user experience, brand reputation, and environmental impact, can significantly affect a project’s value.
- Overlook potential risks and uncertainties; instead, address them.
Business requirement document example
The example below outlines what a business requirement document may look like for a law firm’s company-wide digital skills training project.
Law firm X plans to implement a comprehensive, company-wide digital skills training program. This initiative will equip all legal professionals within the organization with advanced digital competencies. By enhancing our digital capabilities, we aim to improve our efficiency and client service, as well as maintain our competitiveness.
Enhance digital competencies: Equip all legal staff with digital skills, enabling them to use digital tools and technologies in their daily workflows.
Improve legal research efficiency: Increase legal research efficiency by a minimum of 30% within the first six months of program implementation.
Enhance client interactions: Enhance client interactions by utilizing digital platforms; aim for a 15% increase in client satisfaction scores.
- Development and delivery of digital skills training modules.
- Identification of digital skills gaps among legal staff.
- Integration of digital skills training into the onboarding process for new hires.
- Ongoing support and resources for continuous digital skills development.
- Advanced technical training unrelated to legal practice.
- Procurement of hardware or software.
- Digital skills assessment: Conduct an initial assessment to identify digital skills gaps among legal staff.
- Tailored training modules: Develop customized training modules based on the identified skills gaps.
- Onboarding integration: Integrate digital skills training into the onboarding process for new legal hires.
- Ongoing support: Provide ongoing support, resources, and opportunities for continuous digital skills development.
Partners and senior associates: Provide strategic direction and leadership for the training initiative.
Legal staff (associates, paralegals, support staff): Primary beneficiaries of the training program.
IT department: Provide technical support and infrastructure for training delivery.
External training providers: Collaborate on curriculum development and training delivery.
Schedule and timeline
Curriculum development: Months 1–2
Training rollout: Months 3–5
Ongoing assessments: Months 6–12
Possible project constraints
Budget constraints: Limit additional expenditures for training materials and external trainers.
Legal staff availability: Limited availability due to client commitments may affect training sessions.
Anticipated costs: Training material development, external training fees, potential IT infrastructure upgrades, and assessment and certification fees.
Projected benefits: Improved legal research efficiency, enhanced client interactions, increased client satisfaction, and digitally proficient legal professionals.
The project’s value proposition lies in the long-term benefits of having a digitally skilled legal team, which contributes to improved client relationships and helps maintain a competitive edge in the legal market.
Organize your next project with Motion
A business requirement document steers your project and team in the right direction. Get ready to create one for your next project to ensure clarity, alignment, and effective management of project details.
With Motion, the intricacies within a business requirement document become more manageable. Join the growing community of professionals who rely on Motion to simplify their project planning and management. Sign up for a free trial now.