Business Requirements as Part of Data Stewardship

By Anne Smith

Requirements gathering (data, meta data and process) are a vital part of successful project management and information management —well-known and publicly available research, such as the Standish Group’s Chaos Report, has shown this to be true. Even though there is growing recognition of the importance of requirements gathering, not enough has been done to explain the underlying need for a requirements gathering process or to develop methods to improve the process. The emergence of the function of data stewardship can bring attention to the need for clear business requirements.  Stewards can guide their clients / users through a process that elicits their business requirements and facilitates good information management, but the steward must be well versed in both understanding the concepts of business requirement gathering AND the process that will best document the requirements.

Budgets and resources are tight, time pressures are constant, and business is demanding changes, enhancements and new services continually. It should be no surprise that some organizations are still not devoting time to doing data and process analysis, under the misguided perception that short-cutting this activity will shorten the development effort and save costs. However, the end results are quite the opposite. This is the trap that many organizations continue to experience. Not defining the business data and system requirements at the start of a development project result in significant costs in subsequent Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) phases. The reason for this, we now know, is that the analysis activity simply is shifted into other phases of the SDLC, resulting in additional effort and rework. Things are discovered during design, during coding, or during testing that should have been addressed during analysis. This omission causes lost time, increased effort (because of the ripple effect of the changes required) and increased project cost. Furthermore, costs are increased by changes to requirements during maintenance and enhancement activities.  It is estimated that companies currently spend an average of seventy-seven percent of a department’s budget on missing or incomplete requirements documentation.  Data stewards who are trained in requirements gathering and development can contribute to successful development projects and enhancements to existing systems, thereby reducing the costs associated with development and maintenance.

Data and process requirements gathering is part of many methodologies and consists of:

  • Interviewing subject matter experts and discovering needs for data, meta data and process
  • Organizing complex information into appropriate categories and subjects
  • “Translating” technical language into business language and vice versa
  • Ensuring appropriate stakeholder involvement at all levels of effort
  • Drafting clear and concise written documentation for users and technicians
  • Working successfully with multidisciplinary teams

A viable structured information planning methodology has requirements gathering and documentation as its foundation, and supports the creation and enhancement of robust, scalable and stable applications.  A trained team that consists of data stewards, users and information technology professionals can discover, document, analyze and implement requirements that result in functional systems and increased business maturity.  For some organizations, the use of data stewards to complement business analysts has resulted in superior data and process requirements for all types of systems (transaction, decision support, etc.).

Today, companies need a method that captures the users’ requirements quickly, accurately and completely, a method that provides a flexible, yet structured approach to producing a high quality specification, every time.  Along with a requirements method, companies need stewards trained in requirements management and aligned by subject area, so the stewards can participate actively in all information technology efforts for their subject area.  Supporting the business and data analysts who are responsible for IT requirements management, strong data stewards can give a business orientation functional and non-functional requirements that complement the work of the IT professionals.

If companies don’t have time to do it right the first time, when do they have the time to fix it?  Devoting so much time to analysis that ultimately interferes with the product delivery isn’t the answer either. In this highly competitive world, the data stewardship teams must respond competently and quickly, and by using a requirements management approach can facilitate rapid response.  With stewards serving on requirements teams, supporting the business and data analysts, an organization will learn more about their business processes and its data, capturing all information necessary to achieve and maintain a competitive edge.

About the Author

Anne Marie Smith is a leading consultant in Information Management and is a frequent contributor to various IS publications. Anne Marie has over 20 years experience in information management for several corporate entities and has successfully led the development of data resource management departments within corporations and consulting organizations. Anne Marie is active in the local chapter of DAMA and serves on the board of directors of DAMA International, and is an advisor to the DM Forum. She has been an instructor of Management Information Systems (MIS) with Philadelphia, PA area colleges and universities. Anne Marie has taught topics such as: data stewardship and governance, data warehousing, business requirements gathering and analysis, metadata management and metadata strategy, information systems and data warehouse project management. Anne Marie’s areas of consulting expertise include metadata management including data stewardship and governance, information systems planning, systems analysis and design, project management, data warehouse systems assessment and development, information systems process improvement and information resource management/data resource management. Anne Marie holds the degrees Bachelor of Arts and a Master's of Business Administration in Management Information Systems from La Salle University; she has earned a PhD in MIS at Northcentral University. She is a certified logical data and process modeler and holds project management certification. Anne Marie can be reached at

Free Expert Consultation