The first few steps in any project should include writing the project charter and management plan, and gathering requirements. At this point, project scope and required deliverables have been documented. The next step is to define how those deliverables and requirements are to be implemented in the final product. This is accomplished by writing the Functional and Technical Specifications document(s). These may be combined in the same document; however, distinction must be made between the two sections.
Functional Specifications define the requirements to be implemented by a software solution, from a user’s perspective. The document includes detailed statements describing what the system should do, typically beginning with the phrase “The system shall . . .” Functional requirements do not include “how” a requirement is accomplished. Rather, it merely states what a user expects the system to do.
Technical Specifications bridge the gap between the Functional Specifications and the actual code designed to programmatically produce the desired results. Ignoring this step often leads coders and system implementation staff to make assumptions about how a task should be accomplished, leading to delays and rework. This section can include requirements for the system architecture, input and output descriptions, software platform, database requirements, and line items that tie directly back to each item included in the Functional Specifications document.
When compiling the system specifications, it is imperative that they tie back to the project plan and to ensure they are within project scope. Routing these documents to end users for review and signoff will also provide confidence that required key functionality has not been overlooked.
Once these documents are complete and approved, they must not be considered written in stone. If the project scope changes at any point during implementation, these documents must be updated to reflect those changes.
Producing comprehensive Functional and Technical Specifications helps ensure that the work performed by the implementation team is within scope and produces required results as defined by the charter and project plan.
Scott Pederson is a Certified Public Accountant and a Senior Consultant with MidDel Consulting, a System Integrator and Professional Services firm specializing in services supporting the business systems for Front, Back and Mid Office. MidDel has been in business for over 16 years and our consultants, on average, bring over 25 years of senior level energy industry knowledge to our projects. We have deep relationships with our clients, often working with them for more than a decade.
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