You might hear the entire package of deliverables that a business analyst is expected to deliver to be called “requirements”. However, I believe there are two distinct types of information that the business analyst is primarily responsible for delivering: requirements and specifications. And yes, while related, these are very different things.
If requirements are “the what”, then specifications are “the how”.
(Let me pause for just a moment to call out that there is a very important step between requirements and specifications, and that is Solution Analysis. But assuming you’ve completed that step…)
Specifications (or Specs) are where you document the details of how each requirement is being fulfilled. This is where all the detail goes in order for:
- Your client to confirm and approve what they want you to deliver
- Your developer (if you’re building software) to know what exactly to build
- Your tester to verify that everything is working as expected
Building on the example I mentioned when defining requirements, if the requirement is “the user must be able to communicate confirmation of a reservation with the customer”, then the specifications will now call out exactly how the confirmation will be delivered. If it is an email, what information goes in the subject and body; what email address will this be sent from; is the recipient able to reply to the email address. If it is a text message, what is the content of the text message; what happens if the user doesn’t have a cell phone number in their profile.
And specifications are not just for building or modifying software.
If you’re modifying a business process, your specifications will include details about who performs what tasks and when. If you’re defining reporting needs, your specs will include details about the data needed, how it’s displayed and who should receive it.
There will be plenty of posts discussing the kinds of information that you should consider including in your specs and how to organize it. But the key point is that this is where all the nitty gritty goes.
Do you distinguish requirements from specifications? Or do you consider them all requirements?