Join Haydn Thomas for an in-depth discussion in this video Developing project acceptance criteria, part of Business Analysis Foundations.
- Can you imagine running in a race without a finish line? I would think that that would be a very harrowing experience. You would not know how to pace yourself or when you might need to get food and water to ensure you have enough energy to finish. Acceptance criteria are like the finish line for your project. They define the point when you can declare success and work on making sure your business fully embraces the products of your project. Of course, this needs to be done within defined funding and resource limits, kind of like the food and water for the race.
Your acceptance criteria should be developed in conjunction with your key stakeholders. And they should be specific so you can clearly determine when you have achieved business objectives. In addition viable completion criteria also have following characteristics. First, they reflect specific business outcomes, determined early in the project. Sound acceptance criteria are part of a good traceability matrix I discussed earlier in the course. They are traceable from the initial desired outcome through the requirements, to how they'll be tested.
Acceptance criteria at the heart of determining testing validity, which I will discuss in the next chapter. Acceptance criteria define a fixed finish line for all to see and strive for. The second characteristic of good acceptance criteria is they reflect the desires and expectations of your stakeholders. This is not a point in time exercise. As a business analyst, you should be in constant contact with key stakeholders, conveying progress towards achieving project outcomes.
Acceptance criteria can be drafted early, but should be constantly revisited and refined as the project progresses. By doing so and discussing the costs and risks associated with greater or lesser project acceptance criteria, you take on a no surprises approach and help ensure your project will be perceived as successful. The third characteristic of sound acceptance criteria is that they set or reinforce project priorities. Most projects are designed to achieve multiple business outcomes, however these outcomes are really prioritized.
For instance if increasing your customer base and controlling costs are project objectives, will it be okay if you increase your customers base by 50%, but spend 20% more on marketing to achieve that goal? Good acceptance criteria put multiple project objectives in balance, and help the project team create processes and tools that meet the holistic objectives of all your stakeholders and the sponsor. The last characteristic of sound acceptance criteria is they include specifics on how they'll be measured.
You, your project managers, and your team will not know where the finish line is to this race if you do not know the means of measurement. Is it 10 miles, or 10 kilometers? Is it measured by the distance traveled on the road or as the crow flies? The answer to these questions can change the criteria greatly. Making an assumption that all stakeholders will embrace the same measurement approach is a very dangerous thing to do. Your effective acceptance criteria should include the exact processes by which success will be measured, what business processes will be measured, what unit of measure will be used, and what the specific target is to be achieved.
One more tip about acceptance criteria, they can change as business pressures and strategies change. So, on longer projects, make sure you validate the acceptance criteria periodically. That way you can help ensure you are always on the right road, heading to the proper finish line.
Discover where business analysis lives in the project life cycle, how to initiate a project, the best way to gather requirements, and smart strategies to monitor results and test outcomes.
Lynda.com is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- Understanding what business analysts do
- Defining business opportunities and objectives
- Identifying stakeholders
- Gathering requirements through observation and brainstorming
- Validating requirements
- Developing project acceptance criteria
- Implementing, testing, and closing your project<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.