After Viewpoint engaged a marketing firm to help us develop web content, the marketers asked if we had documented our intended goals. I was stunned that I had none, considering that is one of the first questions Viewpoint also asks our clients! Just like most of our clients, I had no written requirements either. I discovered that I don’t like writing down project requirements. It’s hard work!
Anyone who has worked with Viewpoint knows that we love it when, at the start of a project, our client hands us a document with detailed requirements about a project. With the requirements completely described, we know plainly how to design and build the system to satisfy the goals that the client is seeking.
In reality, it is rare when clients have prepared a requirements document prior to that first meeting when we discuss the project. And, my experience is that having written requirements at that initial meeting is becoming even more unlikely than in past years. Everyone is just too busy dealing with multiple projects to take the time to write down their needs.
But, at Viewpoint, we strive to assure that we have decent requirements before quoting a project. After all, we want to make sure our client is delivered a system without any missing features. More often than not, however, our clients have incomplete requirements, and it’s frustrating for our engineers because they don’t know which problem they need to solve.
That frustration seems to be just part of doing business these days, but I don’t like it. And, when the marketing firm flipped the tables on me by asking for documentation of our objectives, clearly stated in a requirements document, I was taken aback. I was transformed into being a client, rather than the usual scenario of being the service provider. And, despite all my frustrating experiences of asking our clients for documentation, I responded just like our clients often do: I didn’t have any.
When the marketing folks asked me for our requirements, I heard myself thinking the same things we often hear from our clients:
- “You’re the expert, don’t you just know what needs to be done?”
- “I don’t want to include something that might be expensive and time-consuming!”
- “If I give you a quick outline sketch, can you fill in the blanks?”
What an eye opener! That experience made me truly appreciate how very hard it is to document project requirements.