Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Requirements Requiem



P.S: This is one of my older blogs written last May,2008 (old but not forgotten)...that I am reviving here...call it lack of inspiration or too much love

The past two months have been eventful...won't go into details but the new project that I am working on is close to my heart. When you work on something for more than a decade it morphs from being a technology /a product to being a "loved one"...and that's when you have a tendency to become too attached, complacent or biased ( all things not good!). In the midst of all these changes was one constant - the incessant commute on Route 101...fellow travellers will understand and empathize with the feelings of road rage, anger, utter helplessness and the constant knock on your wallet of the rising gas prices...it was on these long commutes that I started noticing a beautiful piece of technology that people called a "Prius"...50 miles per gallon sounded like music to my ears...long story short 6 weeks back... I had my gas guzzling Lexus traded in for a brand new Prius...it was while I was buying the Prius and accepting all the "bells and whistles"...3 places to store your sun glasses, rear view camera, Nav. System, DVD Player (yeah! like I will watch a movie and drive), sheer paint protector, climate control and a billion other things that I realized that this was not very different from our requirements process.

There were features that were must-haves - Eg. Fuel Efficiency ( 50 miles/gallon)
There were features that the PM obsessed over which were not critical to market launch but she had convinced herself and the rest of the company that they cannot survive without - Eg. - Rear view Camera ( Hey! I am human)
Peer Pressure ( read Competition, colleagues) - Eg. XYZ has a Navigation System , so I need one too
External Pressure and Image - Eg. DVD System...kinda cool HUH!
Based on my years in Product Management, I have realized a few facts of life - when a Product Manager gets down to writing requirements, they usually start of with a well defined, streamlined MRD/PRD ( admitted with some opinions and biases of the PM layered in). It is as this document goes through the review cycles through the organization that unrequired layers get added in - based on the need to be better than competition, the need for a fabulous USP, political pressure (i.e., the CXO believes we need this, the boss has advised us that this needs to be in), perceived market demands (customer said it was kinda cool etc. etc.)....and we lose sight of what is required....i.e. what can we build in the timeframe that we can sell today at a profit.

Now as I sit down and right yet another requirements document...I also write a short requiem in anticipation of the downfall -

You were perfect when you began...market driven and sharp focus,

You will be not-so-perfect towards the end...

Distorted by opinions, politics,biases and perceptions

Yet as I write you this farewell note, remember you are something I created,

With a lot of hope for the future....

May you rest in peace !!!



And as I write the requiem I make a mental note that I do not need 3 sunglass holders, a rear view camera, a DVD player, 8 cup holders in my car....so I am sure my baby (aka product) can make do without a lot of the empty features that we front load the requirements document with and be delivered as per market needs on time and within budget...amen!

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