Yes, I NEED My Smartphone!

If you've ever spoken to me, you'll probably know that I'm quite addicted to my (android) smartphone. Someone recently asked me a question that got me thinking:

"Rachid, what would you do without your smartphone!?"

My reply was instant..

"Nothing, I need my smartphone, I simply couldn't survive without it"

If you're involved in the requirements trade, you might have heard something similar when gathering the requirements for your project.

Another example I overheard recently was:

"My car is broken, this is terrible, I absolutely need it to get to work"

What do both of the above have in common? Both use the word need incorrectly. Do I really need my smartphone to survive? Would I die if I didn't have a smartphone..? Maybe Probably not!

Did the person above really need their car to get to work? Again, probably not. It might have made the journey to work a lot easier than having to walk to the bus stop, but that is still a want, not a need. Their actual need is the ability to get to work somehow.

What's The Connection?

So what does any of this have to do with requirements? A key role of the Business Analyst (or that person wearing a BA hat) is to understand the difference between a need and a want.

Needs are those things that stop a required task from being able to occur. There is no other way to get that job done.

Wants are those things that can be skipped (even if just for the initial development cycle), and do not impact the ability to complete a goal or task. The workaround may be tough and time-consuming, but it is a workaround nonetheless.

Disguising wants as needs doesn’t help anyone. Developers may struggle to include all the “needs” into a single development cycle pushing out the release of a usable product unnecessarily. No product means no users, no revenue, no profit.

The benefit of correctly identifying and delivering on the needs not only allows a useable product to be delivered sooner, but allows us to learn from the real-life usage of the system. And maybe learn that those original “wants” (that were actually needs) aren’t even wanted anymore!

Further Reading: But I Want Everything!

Note: My smartphone is most definitely a "Must Have"..!