Leadtime@ | Blog | Why specifications are often bad
Software Entrepreneurship

5 reasons why customers often have difficulty formulating their requirements correctly.

The requirements specification is a crucial document that sets the framework for a project. It provides clarity, prevents misunderstandings, and promotes efficient communication. A good specification allows the contractor to fully understand the project and develop optimal solutions. It reduces the risk of misinterpretation and unexpected changes, resulting in reduced project costs and time. Yet, many specifications are of poor quality. Here are 5 reasons why this is so, and what you can do about it.
Leadtime® | Blog | Author | Lukas Ebner
Lukas Ebner7/9/2023
Leadtime® | Blog | Why clients write bad requirements | Guy procrastinating

A clean, well-structured specification is more than just a document - it is the strategic plan that sets the framework for all further activities. It creates clarity, avoids misunderstandings, and promotes efficient and effective communication between all parties involved. A high-quality specification document enables the contractor to fully understand the project and develop optimal solutions. It also minimizes the risk of misinterpretation and unexpected changes, which in turn reduces project costs and time. But why do so many requirement specifications have poor quality? And how can we improve the quality of requirements specifications to increase the chances of a successful project outcome?

The quality of a requirements specification is largely dependent on how well the customer can put their requirements into a structured form. Customers often fail at this task without even knowing it. But what are the reasons for this?

  • Time pressure: Writing clear and precise texts requires concentration and, above all, time. In many cases, however, projects are started on top of the hectic daily business. The employee tasked with summarizing the requirements simply doesn't have enough time to do a thorough job.
  • Lack of qualifications: Creating a solid requirements specification requires extensive knowledge of what information an IT firm really needs to effectively implement a project. However, the employees who best understand the problem to be solved in the project often do not have this specific qualification.

“Ours is a world where people don’t know what they want and are willing to go through hell to get it.”
Leadtime® | Blog | Why clients often fail with their specification sheets | Don Marquis by MidjourneyDon MarquisPhilosopher
  • Lack of writing skills: Precise writing is a matter of practice. Few people write longer texts regularly; they simply lack practice.

  • Use of abbreviations: Another factor in the poor quality of many specifications is the attempt to speed up the creation process. Customers often resort to generic templates from the Internet or even AI tools such as ChatGPT instead of going into detail about their specific requirements. Unfortunately, such shortcuts often lead to inaccurate and superficial requirements specifications that increase the potential for misunderstandings and communication problems.

  • Lack of prioritization: Another problem with creating requirements specifications is the lack of distinction between essential "must-haves" and optional "nice-to-haves." Often, requirements specifications resemble a collection of wishful features from brainstorming sessions, without clear prioritization. Without this prioritization, it becomes difficult to separate the critical requirements from the less important ones, which can lead to ambiguity and ultimately affect the efficiency of the project.

Tips for customers

  • Take your time: Creating a good requirements specification takes rest and time. Plan this into your project preparation.

  • Training and education: Take advantage of training offers or get support from experts to improve your knowledge.

  • Use the right tools: There are special software and platforms that have been developed specifically for creating specifications. These can make the process much easier.

  • Learn about standards: Knowledge of norms and standards can greatly improve the quality of your requirements specification.

  • Set priorities: Distinguish between "must-haves" and "nice-to-haves." Make it clear which requirements are indispensable and which are optional.

By the way

With Leadtime ERP, we have developed a solution that solves precisely these problems. Our platform makes it possible to work out requirements together with the customer on the basis of dynamic questionnaires. At the push of a button, the system generates a clean and structured document. Learn more here.

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