Project Management: Functional vs. Nonfunctional Customer Requirements

At one time or another, professional project managers need to deal with customer requirements. These might include project specifications, or instructions, or even information on final project deliverables. Customer requirements can be broken down into two categories: functional and nonfunctional customer requirements.

What is the difference between functional and nonfunctional customer requirements?

Functional and nonfunctional customer requirements can be broken down into the “what” of a particular project. These often include data or specific instructions or specifications that are clearly outlined or defined in a project. Often times further clarification may be needed in order to clearly communicate and document project specs and ultimately meet customer expectations and provide successful deliverables.

Nonfunctional customer requirements refer to the performance or reliability, interfaces, or design constraints that may be attached to a particular project. For example, a construction project that requires a project manage to manage particularly the reliability and design factors involved—as well as the risks—is an example of nonfunctional customer requirements. The nonfunctional customer requirements deal with the “how well” categories of a particular project. These typically relate to customer expectations and overall satisfaction.

As a result, goals need to be defined once functional and nonfunctional customer requirements are addressed. Goals should be geared towards how to address each customer requirement and how those goals will ultimately impact customer expectations and final project deliverables.

Customer Requirement Categories

Customer requirements can also be broken down further into subcategories. These include technical system requirements and management system requirements, which typically involve cost and time constraints, as well as quality factors. There are also performance requirements, interface requirements, design requirements, implementation requirements, and physical requirements. Regardless of the type of project or industry you manage, it will likely fit into one or more of these categories.

Finally, identifying, analyzing, and categorizing customer requirements is another essential step in project management. This will help project managers manage customers, their specifications and clearly communicate them to team members, vendors, and other departments or functional areas. Responding to all aspects and categories (or as applicable) of customer requirements will ultimately lead to exceeding customer expectations and producing quality deliverables.

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