What is a Requirement?


Requirements mean many different things for many different people. The dictionary’s definition of a requirement is one that – I believe – we can all agree on:

“A thing that is needed or wanted”

That definition is so succinct that it is impossible to disagree with, although I’ve no doubt that some will want to. A person may require a lift, they may require food and drink; those are both needs and / or wants and align with the dictionary definition.

However when we use the term requirement within the context of business analysis, it does imply – as one would hope – more specificity and and clarity. Where it can be accurately expressed as the following:

A documented representation of a business need; a condition or capability needed by a stakeholder to achieve a business objective.

 Whilst it stays true to the broad dictionary definition, there are a variety of key qualifying words that provide the additional context required: documented, condition, capability, stakeholderachieve, objective

So now we have clarity in what a requirement means in the context of business analysis: a need from a business to achieve an objective. How should it be digested and documented?

As I expect you were able to guess, there are specific criteria that a requirement needs to meet in order for it to be considered fully formed, as per the excellent Business Analysis 3rd Edition by Debra Paul & James Cadle. These are:

  1. Unambiguous
  2. Testable
  3. Atomic
  4. Clear
  5. Correct
  6. Understandable
  7. Feasible
  8. Independent
  9. Necessary

Or the slightly shorter – and much easier – to remember through the INVEST mnemonic, which fits into / is aligned with user stories:

  • Independent
  • Negotiable
  • Valuable
  • Estimable
  • Small (ie can fit into an iteration)
  • Testable

This was potentially the quickest overview of requirements definition in the history of definitions. In summary a requirement within business analysis is: something a business needs to achieve an objective. The job of the business analyst is to get enough detail and structure the need in such a way to ensure that the something is fully defined to the point where it can be built, tested and released by the delivery team.

About the author


I am London based Ecommerce Business Analyst & Technical Lead. Always keen to chat.

By Matt