App development requires long-term thinking and a lot of organization. Several complex moving parts have to fit together to complete an app and launch it to the market. Your development team should start with a product discovery phase for your app and inside the discovery phase is a requirements gathering process. Requirements gathering is crucial to the success of a development project. 

Think of it like a mise en place for your developers. Every part of the project is ready and divided into manageable pieces. You’re not only making their jobs easier, but you’re also setting your app up for success. Productive requirements gathering sessions also make it easier to quote an accurate time estimate. Once your development team knows what’s coming, they can accurately plan their own work around it. 

In this guide, we’ll offer some of the key parts of a requirements gathering process and how to make sure you’re ready to tackle this essential step. 

Create a Plan 

Before any work starts on an app development project, it’s crucial to designate a product owner. This person is the lynchpin between you, the client and your development team. Product owners are the main point of contact for the team to direct questions and get answers, so it’s vital that the PO knows the ins and outs of the app as well as the overarching product vision.

Regular workshops where the product owner can address questions from developers is a typical way many software houses will want to work. However, the early stages of an analysis stage will likely take several days of intense requirements gathering.

  • Designate a product owner who will be the main contact between developers and the client
  • Set a meeting cadence and really engage with the requirements gathering process
  • Set specific meetings to take questions from developers and guide discussion
  • Have your team document a plan to reference later in the development process

As soon as a product owner takes on the role, the development team will begin gathering business and systems requirements. This includes a target market, the types of devices your clientele uses, the right technology, specific features and, of course, what you want the app to do. 

Set out a plan to continue gathering information and answering questions that come up in the discovery phase. Regular intervals will give the product owner and the development team chance to get all the information they need to do good work. 

All the information that developers gather goes into an initial backlog of tasks so project managers can estimate the number of hours and begin delegating work to developers. We’ll get in-depth insight into your vision and begin to outline functional requirements.

Identify and gather requirements 

Once we’ve designated a product owner and have defined the cadence and platform to meet, it’s time to start checking items off the list. We developers have to build an overview of requirements and begin sorting them out. It’s vital that your development team has all the necessary details before development begins because this is where app development can get very expensive. 

The more time developers have to scramble to fill in the blanks in development or add something new, the more they’re billing for it. This is why reputable software vendors will work with you to get the information they need before they start development work.

  • Have your development team create a backlog and begin prioritizing tasks by order of importance
  • Be available to guide priority decisions since you know your business best
  • Include several key people to be sure that no essential features get missed
  • Confirm meeting outcomes with documentation from the development team
Requirements Gathering Process

During the gathering requirements phase, include everyone that can share the product vision as well as functional and non-functional features. By far the easiest way to nail down all these requirements is to simply meet your development team in person and do the brainstorming meeting, interview sessions, and prototyping. 

Meeting outcomes should be confirmed documentation with all the needed requirements, diagrams showing the system’s main state, and all the recognized dependencies. This all for sure will help your development team gather all that they need to move forward effectively.

Review and Prioritize Requirements

As soon as everyone agrees on the final list of requirements, we now have to come up with a way to pull it off. Sometimes, requirements are challenging. It often happens that one of the requirements is difficult to handle. Total redesigns of database architecture or migrating parts of the modules from an old codebase to a new version or changing the coding language entirely are some of the requirements that emerge in the initial stage. These hardest parts of the app are pieces that need the highest priority. Since these design choices affect the entire app, these are the places that need the most attention and labor. 

  • Meet to agree on a final list of requirements
  • Prioritize technically challenging tasks first
  • Align on overall direction 
  • Shortlist a list of requirements for an MVP for the first phase of the project

Clients and development teams have to make final decisions about the overall direction in this stage of the requirements gathering process. It’s here that the client and development team review the requirements and align on exactly what work will get done and when. Outcomes for this step should be a shortlist of bare-bones requirements for an MVP that will be delivered in the first phase of the project. Other less urgent features can come later in other iterations.

Manage project requirements

Once you have all the information you need — and everyone understands and agrees you have your project scope to start working on. 

Later your team will turn business requirements into user stories that go into a backlog according to how urgent they are and how important they are to the business. The most important go first and the less important features go lower on the list.

Requirements Gathering Process 1

Throughout development, we’ll work on the user stories at the top of the backlog, achieving our client’s business goals. 

  • Agree on a project scope and get it in writing
  • Have your developers begin creating user-stories
  • Receive a backlog of tasks by order of importance
  • Understand that changes in scope after the requirements gathering stage could slow down development and increase the budget

However, the backlog ordering, managing, and monitoring the work progress is not the only thing to take care of. What is really hard to manage and tricky to predict are changes in requirements, which often happen. Markets change, competitors emerge and businesses have to adapt. It’s hard to predict what the market will want by the end of a development project, so getting as much detail together at the beginning is essential to a successful app.

Part of knowing what features in apps people will actually want to use is a question for your marketing team, not your developers. So keep a good balance between which features are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves. Do the right research beforehand so you also know who will benefit from the app and what kind of competitive landscape is out there. All this research will help you avoid last-minute changes that will only run up your billable hours with your development team. 

Expect your development team to treat new features that were not identified in the requirements gathering phase to treat new features as requests that need to be addressed separately.

Change requests, however, if managed properly can be added to the existing backlog and then pushed to development as long as everyone knows that that will take more time and be more expensive. 

Final thoughts

Gathering the necessary requirements for an app is a vital first step in development. These sessions will help your development team understand your business, the type of customers you’re trying to collect, and many of the features that will make your app stand out. They’ll organize and prioritize tasks, making it much more straightforward to give you an accurate estimate and lay out a scope of work. 

Requirements gathering is good for you and for your development team alike. It ensures everyone is on the same page about what the final app should do and who it’s for. Make sure your development team actually does ask you a lot of questions. This means they’re thinking critically through the process and will give you a much more accurate prediction of the time it will take to launch. 

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Requirements Gathering Process - marcel-100px Hi, I’m Marcin, COO of Applandeo

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