"Knowledge is Power" may be an overused adage, but it still rings as true today as when it was first used. Success in a project is directly proportional to the amount of information you have to work with. The more you know, the better prepared you can be. Gathering practical information is vital to the relationship you have with your clients, and it is essential in the trust building process, especially early on. The more you know about the company you are working with, the better chance your relationship has of succeeding.
In order to create a bespoke service or application for a company it is vital to understand exactly how they operate, and what makes them tick. This involves a dedicated process known as 'requirements gathering'. Effectively this is a term which describes the process of gathering a list of all the needs and requirements that the company has so that you, as their 'helper' can obtain all the relevant information needed to do your job correctly.
Requirements gathering is by no means a homogenous process, and we have to remember that each client is completely different, even those in the same line of work. Each client has specific requirements and requests, and the complex gathering process has to cover every possible approach. The process begins with a long list of questions, as to what the needs of the company are. This can involve focus groups, brainstorming sessions with employees, clients, prospective and current customers as well as experts.
Sometimes a prototype is necessary so that a theory, a working model or idea can be tested. They provide an excellent source of design testing where flaws can quickly be assessed, and improvements made. Prototypes usually start with a comic book style sketch board that illustrate the interfaces or components. In many cases, the prototypes become the actual 'official' requirements because they become so refined over time and practice that they end up being the finished product.
The necessary range of work is usually determined through the entire and combined process of gathering requirements, analysing requirements and project transformation. Analysis works to determine the exact needs of the company in making their project a success. This can include the details of the product or application to which the work is dedicated. Sometimes, at the start of the project a client may not be entirely aware of what to expect and that is why the process is necessary. They may not know what to do, who to approach, how it will work, what it will do, what bugs might need removing, what re-writes might be needed and what it doesn't need. All of these points of information are vital to the finished project and can often be answered by having a close cooperation with the actual client, all the way through the process.
From the start to finish, the communication between yourself and the client is kingpin to the success of the project. Effective requirements gathering is going to be the key to whether your client's project comes out correctly and whether your job was a complete success.