Importance of Doing the Upfront Work Before Design

Posted on: December 18th, 2012 by Cheryl Hill 1 Comment

We were recently asked by one of our clients about some methods that can be used to help drive home the importance of developing proper requirements at the right time…namely at the beginning of the project.

Convincing those with whom we work the importance of doing the upfront work…the importance of defining scope and defining requirements BEFORE we jump into design is a challenge many people face when embarking on any new development initiative.   That said, allow me introduce you to a  paper “Triple Your Chances of Project Success – Risk and Requirements” prepared by my colleague, Lou Wheatcraft, that bolsters the argument for defining requirements up-front and provides 3rd party findings which you can cite justifying your case.  [To receive a copy of this paper, send Lou an email directly at and he will send you a copy of the paper and a presentation that goes with it.]

In addition to that which is detailed in Lou’s paper, another potential avenue that you could pursue as justification for defining scope and requirements at the outset of a project is to look at past project metrics.  First…look at a few projects that delivered on-time and on-budget and determine what those projects did right.  Then, look at projects that were over-budget or behind schedule or required a lot of rework, or any combination thereof.  Determine the dollar amount or percent overrun and analyze to determine the issue(s) encountered and root cause(s).   If you look under the “Tools/Templates” link on the Resources page, you will find a document entitled “Checklist for Common Requirement Risk Factors”.  This risk checklist may help in this root cause analysis…if a project experienced any issue listed in the center column, the root cause could be that identified in the first column.

So…trace the overruns and rework experienced on prior projects to specific issues created by not investing in the up-front work (i.e., Scope and Requirements).  Your findings, in all likelihood, will arm you with the most compelling reasons for making the investment in defining, validating, baselining and managing a project’s scope and requirements at the beginning of the project…not at the end when the project is late, over-budget and you are faced with a mountain of changes!

In the 4th century BC, Plato said “The beginning is the most important part of the work”.  Too bad we have to be constantly reminded of that simple fact!!

As with all our blog posts, your comments on this topic are welcome.

If you have any other questions, feel free to post your question on our “Ask the Experts” page and we will do our best to provide a timely response.

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