25 August 2009

Business requirements versus stakeholder requirements

A question was asked onthe Requirements Engineering discussion group about the difference between business requirements versus stakeholder requirements.

Can you answer that without looking the answer up somewhere?

It's a problematic question because the terms don't have plain english definitions; they are both jargon, and so you have to make your way through various industry definitions to find an acceptable, and probably compromised answer.

Let me run a few things by you;

'The business' is a term used by various technical service providers to differentiate themselves from the actual business they work for.  So your developers may call the BA team they work with 'the business' and the BAs themselves may call the sales and operations community 'the business.' (I haven't often heard it used to refer to senior C-level management.)

This separation of identity is problematic in its own right, but let's not go there today.

Frankly, 'the business' is an innacurate phrase and actually means 'stakeholder requirements' but with a limited view of which stakeholders are important.  Is it worthwhile trying to drop the use of this phrase?

Maybe, as it's true that not all stakeholders are equal and in fact understanding - or clearly calling out - the difference between a stakeholder requirement versus a sponsor requirement may go a long way to sharing the effort required to deliver your project.



  1. Actually, I think this question is better addressed by looking up the answer somewhere :-).

    Perhaps the person asking the question heard the terms from someone familiar with the BABOK® Guide, published by IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis), which uses the following classification scheme:

    - Business Requirements are higher-level statements of the goals, objectives, or needs of the enterprise. (...) Business requirements describe needs of the organization as a whole, and not groups or stakeholders within it. (...)

    - Stakeholder Requirements are statements of the needs of a particular stakeholder or class of stakeholders. (...) Stakeholder requirements serve as a bridge between business requirements and the various classes of solution requirements.


    I agree it's a matter of jargon, and the context the terms are used will vary not only from industry to industry, but also from organization to organization.

  2. Hi Adriana,

    The discussion thread I referred to is still ging days later with plenty of industry experts in there arguing through the definitions.

    While the BABOK povides a reference point, it isn't sufficient yet.

    And what does the difference in stakeholder and business requirement mean in practice?

    Any thoughts?

  3. Hi, Craig,

    Personally, as a consultant who goes back and forth between clients performing business analysis work in the IT space, I only use the terms Business Requirements (to describe the problem or opportunity that the software is going to address) and Software Requirements (to describe the capabilities and behaviors the software will have).

    I know that even the term “requirement” generates a lot of discussion within the business analysis community, but I find that using simple terminology and applying it consistently is the best way to keep the project team and the business stakeholders happy.

  4. I'm with you Adriana.

  5. I'm glad we share the same view, Craig.

    I'll see if anyone from ModernAnalist, a LinkedIn group I belong to, has something to add to the discussion.