“Reason Why” Approach to Managing Requirements

I was reading a recent, excellent post by Tom Grant over at Forrester.

One sentence in particular caught my eye:

“Managing the enhancement list is not the same as understanding the reasons behind those requests.”

I feel this is such a critical (yet routinely overlooked) point, I’m writing this short post to share my thoughts on it.

“Reason Why” is FAR More Important Than “What”

Based on my observation over 2+ decades in high-tech product management and marketing, most PM teams spend a lot of resources on the “What” (i.e. the enhancement list), and much less on the “Reason Why”.

Part of the reason for this is lack of resources. Many companies have far fewer product managers relative to the amount of work that needs to be done. As a result, only the “most urgent” (and not necessarily the “most important”) tasks get done. This means…

Many PMs (yes, in your organization too!) spend the bulk of their time managing the “What” with only a vague (and often incorrect) understanding of the “Reason Why”.

Problems with NOT Understanding “Reason Why”:

  • Resources are spent on the wrong requirements, due to minimal understanding of “Reason Why”. Not just PM resources, but also Engineering and other product development resources.
  • Product becomes bloatware. With proper, in-depth understanding of “Reason Why”– PMs can meet many items on the enhancement list with a single new feature – rather than 5 different, overlapping features.
  • Prioritization is done poorly. Without an understanding of the “Reason Why” – and the benefits for the company, it’s nearly impossible to prioritize enhancements properly.

How to Fix This problem:

  • Product Management executives (Director, VP-level execs) need to emphasize to PMs the need for performing activities to understand “Reason Why” for all requirements -AND- provide the PMs with the resources necessary to do so.
  • If there are not enough PMs to do this, it’s critical for PM executives to convince their C-level management of the importance of this – and staff PM teams accordingly. Remember – when PMs ask for the wrong enhancements, resources across your entire organization are wasted.

Editor’s Note:
Interested in an affordable, enterprise-quality software to help you manage requirements in a better way? Check out FREE 30-Day trial of Accompa or Sign Up for a Demo.

I'm your author, Michael Shrivathsan, an expert in product management with successful experience at several innovative companies in Silicon Valley, USA over the past two decades. I'm also a USPTO patent recipient. For my day job, I'm the VP of Product Management at Accompa, we make the popular requirements management software used by Product Management, Business Analysis, and related teams.

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