It has been stated that the most common failure of a software project is caused by not capturing or understanding what the system is required to achieve. This is equally true of your information needs; have you truly captured your data requirements to meet your information needs and organisational objectives?

Is your data over or under specified?

Information requirements

The capture and acquisition of data simply ‘because you can’ does not always offer the best solution. Although storing data itself is relatively inexpensive these days, the overall costs of collection and management of data can be very expensive. A balance needs to be struck between what the organisation would like to have against what is the minimum requirement.

If there is a requirement to record additional data as part of a business process, then gathering this data will take time so reducing process performance, efficiency and profitability.

The key to having the right information is having a good understanding of your business objectives, processes and the decisions that need to be made: Does your data currently deliver the information required to make these decisions with confidence?

So how do you capture the data requirements?  

Requirements should be agreed before the start of your data capture process but should also be reviewed during the data life-cycle. The latter will allow for checking that requirements are still valid, current and there are no gaps. Reviews can also identify data that is no longer required but still being collected/managed.

It is important that data requirements are clearly documented, especially as they will likely contain decisions affecting usage, access definitions, etc., etc. Requirements documentation should be available to all relevant stakeholders and should simply and clearly define the data to be recorded. The documented requirements should be referred back to during the life-cycle of the data as an ongoing assessment of their continued effectiveness. 

People

The capture and subsequent management of requirements may involve many people, both from within the organisation as well as external stakeholders, including clients and suppliers. Key to the success of capturing and managing the requirements will depend on the identification and engagement, by the project, with the stakeholders and the placing of levels of importance to each.

Many people may be involved in the requirements capture process as you should seek the needs of  senior leaders, data & end process users, customers and any other stakeholder in the decision making process.

It is important that the right stakeholders are identified and included within the requirements gathering and assessment process.

Dependencies

There may be other requirements that are actually dependencies upon a requirement being implemented. For example, a process or system requirement may only be achieved through a data requirement being filfilled. 

Tracking Requirements

Requirements, once captured and agreed, would normally be repeatedly used or referred to, but some less frequently used requirements may only be required infrequently. It is important therefore to give careful consideration as to how they are managed. The management of the requirements would normally include storage, access, change control and distribution as you would for any data set. A key area of the management of the requirements is the assessing of their value to the organisation. It is common practice to rank the requirements as to their importance to the success to the delivery of the business process the data is there to support.

It is key that all requirements are linked to some form of benefit. If no link to a benefit can be identified, then questions need to be raised as to why it is required.

So when you are happy you have defined what you need it is time to start gathering data….

DPA have helped many organisations to capture data requirements. To find out more click here.

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