Without proper planning and processes, gathering requirements can feel like stepping into the abyss. Dealing with ambiguity, inconsistencies and constant change can be challenging. You need enough insight to move forward, but know that you can’t pin down every little detail before you begin.
You’ll love it when a plan comes together.
Every successful initiative begins with a plan, and the implementation of your CMMS system is no exception.
Strategy, costs, timelines and project goals all stem from the information you collect, and the way you approach the process of gathering requirements will play a crucial part in obtaining stakeholder engagement and support.
If you’re to deliver a system that’s truly tailored to your business needs, while at the same time managing stakeholder expectations, it’s essential to adopt a robust approach that considers every potential need or obstacle.
1. Get input from the right people.
One of the most high-profile software implementation failures of recent times was TSB’s upgrade to its systems in 2018, which left nearly 2 million customers unable to access their accounts. A software tester who had worked on the project told Reuters that poor internal communication was one of the key reasons for the failed implementation, especially as it led to a lack of clarity as to who was responsible for testing.
You’ll already know who your main stakeholder audiences are likely to be (HR, finance, IT and so on), but there could be other valuable contributors you should be adding to the mix.
Remember, this isn’t about your current system, it’s about the future. The broader the input, the better your technology will serve stakeholders at all levels.
Involving people early in the requirements gathering process can generate valuable insight into the improvements it can facilitate and the challenges they face, making it far more likely that the software will be embraced – and enabling you to validate decisions further down the line.
2. Avoid overloading stakeholders with complexity.
Everyone involved in gathering CMMS requirements needs to understand what you need from them, which means you need to be clear about the reasons for change and what your objectives are.
Transparent and incisive communication builds trust, prevents misunderstandings, and helps you gain advocates and champions for your project. But very few people are likely to read detailed technical specifications or complicated scoping documents, so the information you provide needs to be concise and relevant, clearly setting out why it is important and how it affects them and their role in the business.
You also need to set clear expectations about what their involvement in the decision-making process will be, as you ultimately need to establish a common purpose and a consensus on what the project should achieve.
3. Be clear about the needs of the business.
It’s likely that you’ll encounter different agendas and conflicting priorities, leading to a long list of feature requests during the process of defining requirements. Unchecked, the loudest voice in the room can tend to shape outcomes.
Having a defined list of reasons for change will help you keep the requirements list under control – preventing people from going off-track or from adding countless ‘wish list’ items for you to sift through.
Workshops can give you an opportunity to meet face-to-face and get a true sense of people’s feelings and requirements. And by capturing the collective thinking of the group, they are one of the most productive ways to gather requirements, providing you with a clear vision for the project that is tied to business objectives and delivers tangible value.
Multiple stakeholders means a fast pace of change, and you need to remain open and adaptable to what you may discover.
4. You don’t need all of the answers from day one.
The requirements gathering process is dynamic. A good technology partner can help you prepare and anticipate problems, but you’re unlikely to be able to pre-empt every question or issue that may come up.
Once you’ve created your prioritised list of requirements, make sure that you have addressed any conflicting requests and investigated anything that you suspect may be based on an assumption rather than fact.
You’ll also need to play your findings back to the stakeholders, and check your understanding. You may be surprised at how many amendments you receive in response, but it’s important to capture these changes now rather than at a later stage.
5. Look for a business partner, not an off-the-shelf vendor.
Awareness of the potential pitfalls of the process will help you to ensure that your maintenance management software implementation goes smoothly.
You need to feel confident that your technology provider understands your higher-level goals, and that they aren’t just having conversations that revolve around software features. You’re going to be spending meaningful money on this project, and you want to get maximum value from your investment over the years to come.
Look for people you can do business with, who understand facilities management, and who have a vested interest in your organisation’s long-term success.
There will be challenges along the way, but establishing a strategic process with the right partner and a set of well-defined requirements will give you the foundation you need for success.
> Download Urgent’s eBook: Requirements gathering