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How to Write & Use a Business Requirements Document + Usable Outline

Discover the power of BRDs in project management. Explore the fundamentals of BRDs, practical tips, and the potential of using BRDs with tools like Motion.

Motion Blog
of Motion
Aug 2, 2023
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Imagine investing time, effort, and resources into project requirements, only to realize that the requirements were wrong. The consequences can be detrimental and lead to a complete waste of resources.

Without a clear vision of project requirements, it's easy to lose sight of the end goal and face costly setbacks. Fortunately, there is a powerful tool that can pave the way for a successful project: a Business Requirements Documents (BRD).

Using BRDs, you can capture, communicate, and manage project requirements so that your project stays on course.

Below, we'll explore the world of BRDs and discover how they serve as a compass for project success. We'll go over the basics of BRDs and how to use them in various project management scenarios. We'll also provide you with an outline to use and practical tips to leverage BRDs effectively.

Let’s dive right in.

What is a business requirement document (BRD)?

A BRD is a document used to define a project's requirements. It clearly outlines the project's key functionalities, features, and goals. It also acts as an active resource in the project management process and is vital for creating project plans.

Simply put, a BRD documents the specific expectations an organization hopes to achieve. It defines the “what,” “why,” and “when” of the business needs and objectives.

BRDs also help bridge the gap between project stakeholders, teams, and clients. Aiding them to work together better and to avoid unnecessary requirements mistakes.

BRD vs. FSD vs. SRS

BRDs are often confused with the Functional Specification Document (FSD) and System Requirement Specification (SRS). However, the BRD, FSD, and SRS all serve different purposes in project management.

The BRD gives an overview of the project's goals and reasons. For example, it explains that the app must let users order prescriptions.

The FSD, sometimes known as the functional requirements document, gets into the specifics of how the system meets the business user's needs. Continuing the example, it'd state that the system has to send a confirmation email for prescription refill orders.

The SRS focuses on the technical side, like hardware and software requirements. Keeping with the example, it could specify that the system should respond to a user's request for active prescriptions in under 2 seconds.

Not all projects require an SRS since they're only really useful in very technical projects. Most projects can suffice with just a well-defined BRD that includes the FSD to save time and effort.

Benefits of using BRDs

BRDs have many benefits that help project get and stay on track.

The most obvious benefit is that it clearly defines the overall project requirements. In fact, according to research, poor requirements gathering is one of the main reasons many projects fail. So there really is no excuse for not using a BRD and reaping the rewards.

Let's quickly visualize two other important benefits:

  • Imagine a project where the team faced unexpected changes to the expectations of the project. In this case, the BRD could play an active role in managing these changes well. The team can assess the changes' impact and ensure any addition is accounted for, not just in the BRD, but in terms of schedule and budget.
  • Imagine a different situation where following regulations was important. Here, project managers can use the BRD to identify and include all the necessary requirements. This way, the team can make sure that the project meets the required standards and avoids possible penalties or delays.

Benefits of using a BRD

‎Another advantage of BRDs is how they help teams prioritize requirements. This way, they can visualize the requirements and focus on meeting the most critical needs first.

How can BRDs be used?

BRDs act as a valuable reference for future project iterations. They capture and document essential requirements, so teams can refer to them when planning future projects.

Talking about improvements, BRDs also help with system enhancements. After project teams find areas for improvement, they can use the BRD to check how the new changes align with the existing requirements.

BRDs are useful beyond project management:

  1. BRDs act as valuable tools when working with external vendors or suppliers. With a BRD, you can articulate your requirements and expectations. This way, vendors can see what they are supposed to do, and there's honesty from the beginning.
  2. BRDs are also instrumental in finding gaps and inefficiencies in current processes. To do this, you should create a BRD for your business process and use it as a reference point. You can then use it to check if your business solution meets the list of requirements.

Write an effective business requirements document in 10 steps

To create a powerful BRD, we need to go over a few important steps involved in making this document.

Write a BRD in 10 steps

‎Above is a quick breakdown of the steps before we dive right in.

Step 1: Project background

The project background sets the stage for the rest of the BRD. It provides context and establishes the purpose of the document.

Write down an overview of the project and its context. Describe what the project aims to achieve and why it's significant.

For example, let’s say you are working on creating an app for a restaurant. In the project background section, we'll explain the goal of creating a user-friendly app for customers to order food easily.

Step 2: Define objectives

In this step, you should articulate the business objectives that the project aims to achieve. These objectives can come from the project charter or business case.

You should also link the objectives to measurable outcomes. This way, we get a clear objective and can measure the project's success or evaluate it. For example, if the objective is to increase customer satisfaction, a measurable outcome could be to achieve a 20% increase. We can also make it timebound and say it has to be done within six months of launching the project.

Step 3: Stakeholder analysis

Next, you should identify and analyze the key stakeholders for the project.

Stakeholders are individuals or groups that can influence a project's outcome. When analyzing them, focus on their roles, responsibilities, and expectations.

If we use the example from before about creating the app, we can identify app users as stakeholders. We can then identify certain characteristics about them and think about what they need and the role they will play in the project.

You can also create user stories, which are great for figuring out user requirements. User stories follow a format like: “As a (user), I want to be (assume requirements here).”

Step 4: Gather requirements

To gather info from stakeholders, try interviews, workshops, or surveys. Try to tailor these around their needs, expectations, and desired outcomes.

Here you need to dig deep and listen carefully to what stakeholders say. You should ask open-ended questions to encourage them to provide detailed and specific information.

This way, you can capture all the important requirements accurately.

Step 5: Document assumptions and constraints

In this step, you should document the assumptions and constraints related to the project goals.

Assumptions come from beliefs we create about something without having concrete evidence. Constraints are the limitations or restrictions that may affect the project's execution.

Let's use an example. In this one, we are developing a website for a client. An assumption could be that ‌website users will know how to navigate through web pages. A constraint could be that the website must be compatible with a specific web browser.

Documenting these two elements helps us manage expectations and make informed decisions later on.

Step 6: Document functional requirements

Next up, you should focus on capturing the functional requirements that outline the desired capabilities of the system.

Functional requirements describe what the system should be able to do to meet business needs.

Functional vs non-functional requirements

‎Depending on the project's complexity, these requirements may be included in the BRD or may be documented separately in an FRS or FRD.

You should also use clear and concise language to describe the functionalities required. Here are a few examples:

  1. Customers should receive email notifications for order confirmation.
  2. The system should generate reports on sales, inventory, or customer data.
  3. Administrators should be able to manage user accounts and access control.
  4. The system should have a search function to help users find specific items or info.

Step 7: Document non-functional requirements

Up next, you should identify and write down the non-functional requirements of the system.

These requirements focus on factors like performance, usability, security, and other quality aspects. Basically, they are the requirements that fall outside the basic function of the system. However, they still contribute to the success of the system.

For example, scalability could mean making sure the system can handle more users or data as it grows without slowing down. Reliability requirements could be about making sure the system works consistently without unexpected issues. Regulatory compliance is so that the system follows relevant laws and rules. Usability is about making the system easy to use and so forth.

Step 8: Prioritize requirements

Now, you should prioritize the requirements you gathered based on their importance and impact.

Prioritizing helps us focus on the most critical aspects of the project so that they receive proper attention.

To prioritize requirements, you can use techniques like MoSCoW prioritization or a ranking system.

MoSCoW stands for Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won't have. It helps to categorize requirements based on their level of importance and urgency.

Here's a quick example:

  1. Requirement: The system should allow users to search for products by category.
    1. Priority: Must have
    2. Explanation: This is essential as it directly contributes to the system's core functionality.

Step 9: Validate and review

After ranking the requirements, you should get the BRD validated and reviewed. This makes sure that the requirements accurately capture the project needs and align with the desired outcomes.

To validate the requirements, you can engage ‌‌stakeholders and ask for their feedback. This way, you can see if the documented requirements meet their expectations and make changes if needed.

You should also conduct a full review of the BRD. Check the language used and the details, and ask your team to review it.

Step 10: Get it signed

In the last step, you share the finalized BRD with the stakeholders and get their sign-off. Sign-off guarantees that all parties involved agree and formally approve the documented requirements.

To obtain sign-off, you can circulate the BRD among the stakeholders and allow them to review it. Make sure it is clear who has authority to approve the BRD.

Ask them for their sign-off once they are content and have no further changes or requests.

Obtaining a sign-off is an important milestone in the BRD creation process. Knowing that the documented requirements are approved can give you a ton of confidence to tackle the project.

Business requirements document template

Below is a BRD template that you can use to create your own BRD.

[Project Name]

Business Requirements Document

1. Introduction:

  • Provide a brief overview of the project and project objectives.
  • State the purpose of the BRD.

2. Project overview:

  • Describe the project background, including the need for the project and its alignment with business goals.

3. Stakeholders:

  • Identify the key stakeholders involved in the project.
  • List their roles and responsibilities.

4. Business requirements:

  • Describe the high-level business needs and objectives that the project aims to address.

5. Functional requirements:

  • Specify the specific functionalities and features required to meet the business needs.
  • Organize the functional requirements into categories or modules.

6. Non-functional requirements:

  • Outline the quality attributes, constraints, and performance expectations for the project.

7. Assumptions and dependencies:

  • List any assumptions and dependencies made during the development of the BRD.

8. Constraints:

  • List any limitations or project constraints.
  • This may include budgetary restrictions, time constraints, or resource limitations.

9. Acceptance criteria:

  • Define the criteria or conditions that must be met for the project to be considered complete.
  • Clearly state the measurable outcomes or deliverables that demonstrate project success.

10. Sign-Off:

  • Provide space for stakeholders to review and sign off on the BRD. 
  • This happens differently for Agile development projects. Agile projects might use a BRD to develop the product backlog, for example.

Adapt the template as necessary to suit your project requirements. Make sure it captures all the essential information required for effective project management.

Extra tips for a powerful BRD

To create a more compelling and useful BRD, try these tips:

  • Use visuals: such as diagrams, flowcharts, or wireframes
  • Include use cases: or scenarios to illustrate how the system will be used
  • Define success metrics: or key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the achievements
  • Think about user experience (UX): by capturing user interface (UI) requirements
  • Involve subject matter experts: especially for complex or specialized domains
  • Keep the BRD updated: to track changes

Use Motion for BRD management

Motion is an advanced AI multi-purpose app that boosts productivity and simplifies project management. It can be used as a central platform to manage your BRDs throughout the project lifecycle.

Motion allows you to attach BRDs to tasks or meetings in the app so that it is used as a guiding document. Helping to align project scope and activities with the documented requirements.

Motion can also simplify the gathering of requirements. You can schedule meetings, interviews, or workshops with this project management software. You can also record all conversations and requests in one place to keep things organized and topic-focused.

‎Motion's task management features help align BRD requirements with project tasks and milestones. Tasks can be created, assigned to team members, and linked to specific BRD requirements. This not only helps with the tracking of progress to ensure things go smoothly, it also schedules time for your team to work on the assigned tasks.

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Motion Blog
Written by Motion Blog