What Is a Business Requirements Document?
In short, a business requirements document is a way of defining and explaining the goals of your business project to managers, investors, sponsors, stakeholders, and team members. It should demonstrate that your project is reasonable, actionable, and profitable.
What Do I Need to Know About BRDs?
What Does a BRD Do?
A BRD should outline three elements:
- Every component of your project, from the major sections to the smallest details
- The predicted outcome of the project, including cost and company expectations moving forward
- The key participants: stakeholders, personnel, leaders
How Does a BRD Differ From Other Requirements Documents?
How do you distinguish a BRD, functional requirements document, product requirements document, and a technical requirements document?
A business requirements document is slightly different from a functional requirements document. The rule of thumb is that a BRD is the “what” and an FRD is the “how.” A BRD outlines what the parameters of the project are, what you will need to complete the project, and what the project needs to yield to be successful. An FRD explains how to execute the project.
In other words, a BRD outlines the goals of a business, while an FRD explains how a business plans to reach those goals. Thus, the two documents are complementary rather than interchangeable. A successful project usually uses both.
Product requirements documents and technical requirements documents, meanwhile, are only used depending on the type of project. A product requirements document describes the design, purpose, capabilities, user base, and development schedule of a product. A technical requirements document explains the technological considerations that go into a project. For example, it may outline information security, maintenance, and industry or legal standards in addition to product functions. TRDs are most commonly used in construction, software development, and other scientific fields.
Does Your Business Project Need a BRD?
In essence, probably! They are vital to current and future success in establishing goals for a business. A business requirements document should be created when beginning projects with new or existing clients, seeking new contractors, implementing new technology, etc. A BRD is your ticket to getting a project approved, as well as a compass to use during the execution process.
If done correctly, a BRD will eliminate ambiguity from your project goals, making your project and staff more efficient and effective. A business requirements document also contributes to any larger knowledge management system your business employs. Regardless of your project or industry, everyone can benefit from a BRD. After all, no one wants to waste valuable business resources.
How Do You Write a BRD?
Because it is a goal-oriented document, a business requirements document should be clear and motivate action. BRD writers should use confident, easily digestible language.
When writing a business requirements document, label your subsections clearly so it is more readable. If the document is long, add a table of contents for navigability. Avoid unclear references to past projects or insider company knowledge — do not assume the reader has prior knowledge. To break up the text and illustrate difficult concepts, include images, diagrams, graphs, charts, etc. If your business has a style guide or branding conventions, incorporate those norms into your document. This professionalism appeal to your main audience: stakeholders, sponsors, and managers.
What Should You Take Into Consideration Before Writing a BRD?
First, you need to assemble a technical writing team. A variety of people can contribute to your BRD, but an ideal team will include a business analyst, project staff, stakeholders, business partners, and technical writers.
Second, the team must define the goals of the project and BRD. Make sure everyone is on the same page about what solution your project brings to the table and how a BRD will present that information.
Third, gather relevant insight from all project participants through interviews, surveys, and brainstorming meetings. That way, you’ll understand the needs of every leg of the project. Organize that information into chunks. Who will do what work? When will they do it? Identify goals and expected outcomes for each phase of the project.
Once preparation is complete, your team should be able to cleanly translate this information into a BRD.
What Does a BRD Consist of?
While each business requirements document is unique, they all tend to share the same nine basic elements. It is relatively easy to find business requirements document examples or templates to use as a reference.
An executive summary gives the reader a bird’s eye view of the entire document. Anyone who opens the business requirements document should understand the document’s main ideas from the very first page. Although the executive summary will be at the top of your BRD, it should be written last to ensure maximum clarity and efficacy.
The project objectives delineate the benchmarks and desired outcomes of a project. It also may explain how those goals align with the greater company’s goals. To draft your project objectives, we suggest using the SMART System.
The SMART System is designed to help you set effective objectives. The SMART acronym stands for:
- Specific: You should keep your project focused.
- Measurable: You need to be able to track your project’s level of success.
- Attainable: Try to set yourself up for success, but don’t play it too safe. Challenges foster growth.
- Relevant: Make sure your end goals align with the needs, mission, purpose, etc. of your business, stakeholders, and consumers.
- Time-bound: Give your project structure to keep progress going — deadlines, checkpoints, etc. Make sure they are communicated to all participants.
Your needs statement should explain the necessity of your project to all involved parties. It has to appeal to company stakeholders, employees, vendors, and consumers. Needs statements clarify the mission of your project and explain why people should be invested in it.
The project scope sets boundaries. It defines what your project can achieve and what it cannot, with how much time, and using how much money. For example, if your project requires a mail advertising campaign, you might specify how many ads to print and how many people to send them to.
If you don’t define the scope of your project, you run the risk of overspending and wasting resources. Only bite off what you can chew!
Get specific in your requirements section. This is where you can document the minutiae of your project. Identify what materials, technology, facilities, staff, and external resources you’ll need.
You can also break down the project into categories. If you are designing a website, for example, you may want to group your project requirements into technical requirements and writing requirements, among other things, in order to better delegate tasks to specialized parts of your team. Your technical requirements may include what software is needed, what programming language is needed, and so on. Your writing requirements, meanwhile, may include a copywriter or technical writer, a managing editor, and subject matter experts.
Lastly, in the spirit of working within your project scope, consider ranking your requirements based on their level of importance. This will allow the project team to allocate their resources as effectively as possible.
Your list of stakeholders should not only identify the key players in your project but should also identify their roles and expectations. When evaluating your stakeholders, make sure they cover all the resources you need them to. If you need to bring in additional stakeholders, include that.
Timeline and Measurement System
A timeline details the key phases of the project, deadlines, group meetings, etc. Your timeline should include a system for measuring progress to keep your team, managers, and stakeholders in the loop. The timeline should also include opportunities to document and reassess the project and make adjustments according to your team’s current capabilities.
Your cost-benefit analysis should demonstrate that your project will return on its investments. This is possibly the most crucial step in securing investors, as they will be looking for reliable profit.
In this section, you must also prove that your business is financially able to execute your project in the first place. Provide bank statements and funding sources in addition to projected revenue statements.
- If your business has made BRDs for past projects, use those documents for reference and improve on them if you see fit.
- If you are making your first BRD, the process may seem complicated. This framework will help you get started, but you can also search for other templates for specific industries or project types.
- Don’t underestimate the amount of time and energy that research requires. It is one of the — if not the most — important step in creating a BRD.
- Keep in mind that a BRD may go through many iterations. As a project unfolds, new challenges and opportunities arise that may alter your plans. Approach your BRD with a flexible mindset.
- Before releasing it, always run your BRD by your team. This will allow to you proofread, fact-check, and address any weaknesses or gaps in your document before subjecting it to the critical eye of a manager or stakeholder.
- Once the BRD is complete, make sure to incorporate it into your knowledge management system or other document organization system to make it easily accessible for your project participants and future BRD writers at your company.
How Can EDC Help?
Whether you need a single technical writer for a brief project or a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation, the quality of our work is guaranteed for you. Our clients work closely with an Engagement Manager from one of our 30 local offices for the entire length of your project at no additional cost. Contact us at (800) 221-0093 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.