Successful business projects must be supported by a carefully considered action plan. This action plan includes key details on what needs to be done, who is expected to do it, and what the desired outcome looks like. While there are lots of ways to draw up such a plan, most managers use a Business Requirements Document (or BRD).
Business requirements documents are usually non-solution specific with minimal focus on practical strategies. Their purpose is to outline specific project outcomes rather than the methods used to achieve them. These outcomes are described in the BRD as static requisites. It means the solutions employed to achieve them are subject to change, but the goals in a business requirements document are non-negotiable.
What Is a Business Requirements Document?
A business requirements document describes the purpose of a project (i.e., what a new or modified product will do), its key benefits for a user or department, any specific user requirements and/or expectations, and any obstacles that might impede its success deployment.
BRDs are used by stakeholders as a way to review high-level projects and ensure their priorities, costs, and outcomes stay aligned with the overarching goals of the company. They also serve as contractual agreements for clients which outline any agreed-upon expectations and deliverables. A project is considered finished when the outcomes in the business requirements document have been fulfilled.
What Is a Business Requirements Document Template?
A business requirements document template is a hypothetical version of a BRD designed to demonstrate suitable content, structure, and formatting. Sometimes these BRD templates provide users with a correctly structured report (with recommended headings) and empty spaces for inserting their own content. Other BRD templates include a complete report (with content) so users can see an example of what’s required.
In either case, the user can download and edit a preformatted template to create their own business requirements document.
Business Requirements Document Templates & Examples
Essential Elements of a Business Requirements Document
Business requirements documents reflect the priorities of their company, so no two are the same. However, all BRDs should include the following sections:
- Executive Summary – a concise description of what the BRD contains. A reader should understand the purpose of the document and its key conclusions after reading this short summary.
- Project Overview and Objectives – this is the largest section with the most detail about the project. Some suggested subsections include overall goals, ways the project supports larger strategic objectives, operational, financial, and market business drivers, details about the project’s background, a full list of stakeholders, etc.
- Business Requirements – covers the desired outcomes of the project in detail. Some organizations use the SMART system to effectively communicate client and market expectations. Make sure to order your goals according to their urgency (critical, high priority, medium priority, low priority, future priority).
- Project Scope – explains, in clear terms, which individual or department is responsible for achieving which outcome. Every goal and/or outcome must be assigned to ‘somebody’.
- Glossary – this section is a reference point for readers who may not be familiar with industry-specific terminologies.
How to Write a Business Requirements Document (Step By Step)
Here are some suggested steps for writing your own high-quality business requirements document:
Step 1 – Executive Summary
Open the BRD with a concise summary of the whole document focusing on its desired outcomes, expected benefits, and relationship to your company’s larger strategic goals. This section must be short but highly informative (much like an abstract for an academic essay).
Step 2 – Goals and Objectives
List and describe the high-level goals and outcomes for the project. What will the project achieve? Who will benefit from the project and why? How does the project relate to the company’s overarching, long-term plans? Use SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timeframe – to ensure intended outcomes are presented clearly and prioritized correctly. Include details about how you will measure performance and track the project’s progress from inception to completion.
Step 3 – Project Scope
Assign individuals and/or departments to every project outcome. Who is responsible for achieving X’s objective? How will they measure and report on their progress? Which resources are available to them, and for how long? This section should make the boundaries and limitations of the project and its outcomes explicitly clear to avoid wastage and ensure every goal gets activated. All project functionalities and special requests must be included for the benefit of stakeholders.
Step 4 – Needs Statement
Not every BRD has a dedicated needs statement – it can be summed up in another part of the report instead – but it’s a good way to reiterate the purpose of the project. Providing a clear statement of intent reminds stakeholders of a project’s value and increases employees’ confidence in its deployment.
Step 5 – Business Requirements
If you haven’t already done so, use the SMART system to clearly communicate all company, client, market, and financial expectations. Order these project outcomes according to their importance and time sensitivity (critical, high priority, medium priority, low priority, etc.). You should also use this section to list the resources (supplies, manpower, time, etc.) needed to achieve each outcome. If there are obstacles to acquiring these resources, note them and include details on how they will affect your project’s progress.
Step 6 – Stakeholders
Include a list of all stakeholders involved with or tied to the project. Identify their roles and responsibilities. Include each stakeholder’s name, department, and any relevant methods of measuring and reporting.
Step 7 – Timeframes
Draw up a schedule for each phase of the project, including when it will be started, when (and how often) performance will be measured, and when it is expected to end. If these schedules have a degree of flexibility (i.e., some deadlines can be extended), make it clear exactly how much to avoid the dreaded project bloat. It’s important to have some margin for error, but undefined extensions can be demotivating.
Business Requirements Document vs. Functional Requirements Document
Often, the terms’ business requirements document’ and ‘functional requirements document’ are used interchangeably. This can be confusing as, while they have many similarities, they do different things.
A business requirements document describes, in detail, what a project’s outcomes and deliverables are. It covers, specifically, the WHAT aspects of the project. What will be achieved? What is needed to achieve its key outcomes? What will each person and/or department contribute to its success?
A functional requirements document, on the other hand, covers, specifically, the HOW aspects of a project. How will the outcomes be achieved? Which strategies and methods will be employed? Which operational systems and technologies will be used? How will the key resources referenced in your business requirements document be utilized? FRDs outline the means for delivering a successful project that meets the client’s expectations.
Types of Business Requirements Document Template
RFP360’s BRD template is a straightforward example with sections for adding an executive summary, project objectives, business requirements, a glossary, and more. What makes this template particularly useful are the writing tips alongside the sections. If this is your first time writing a business requirements report, consider using this template as a guide.
PandaDoc’s BRD template is a little more detailed as it covers thirteen different sections. Like RFP360’s version, it offers writing tips in the margins and gives clear advice on how long sections should be so you don’t overrun.
TechWhirl’s BRD template is more specialized than the previous two examples because it’s designed for technology projects. It features various spreadsheets and diagrams that can be edited to display your company’s data.
New York University
This comprehensive BRD template from NY University is ideal for companies that are already familiar with business requirements documents but want to improve the way they generate them. It’s a sophisticated template with lots of different sections, so be prepared to add large amounts of detail and input your own data into its spreadsheets, charts, and diagrams.
If approached with care and precision, a business requirements document can be an indispensable tool for your company’s project. It’s a fantastic way to communicate granularly with clients and ensure all project contributors remain focused, productive, and within the parameters necessary for success.