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What are requirements specifications? And how do they help your software project succeed?

This article will discuss what exactly specifications are, what the purpose of a requirements specification is, the distinction between requirements and functional specifications, which components should be included in the requirements specification, and what you have to consider when creating requirements specifications so that your software project will succeed.

Max. Reading time 7min

IT projects, such as the introduction of new software, are often complex in nature. Many fail due to insufficient preparation, unclear requirements or undefined goals. To counteract this, requirements specifications or functional specifications are often used as part of project management.

In this article, you will learn exactly what these specifications are, what purpose they serve, what the difference between specifications and requirements specifications is, what components specifications should include, and what you need to keep in mind when creating a specification so that your software project is a success.Specifications and requirements specifications are often confused or even mistakenly used synonymously. Of course, they are closely related, because both the requirements specification and the functional specification are about framework conditions and requirements for a software project that need to be implemented. Both help to structure the project. However, there are some crucial differences, which is why the two terms can be clearly distinguished from each other.

What is a specification sheet?

The decisive difference between requirement and functional specifications is the perspective: The requirement specification is created by the client (company, natural person, etc.) who wants to introduce a software solution. The requirements specification contains all project specifications and requirements for the software as well as the potential provider or contractor. This includes the description of desired functions, features, services and interfaces of the software solution. The contractor must provide or develop this catalog of requirements. Processes that the solution must map are also described in the requirements specification.

Requirements specification: Definition

The counterpart to the requirements specification is the functional specification. It is created by the software provider on the basis of the requirements specification and describes how the specifications documented by the potential customer in the requirements specification are to be implemented. This includes both organizational specifications, such as the budget and time frame, and technical requirements.

The requirements specification thus describes the “what” of the project and the functional specification describes the “how”.

In addition, the requirements specification is the basis on which the contractor can make a detailed offer to the client, because it allows him to realistically estimate the project effort and the services expected from him.The creation of a requirements specification is associated with some work, which is why many project managers may initially shy away from it. However, the time and effort invested usually pays off, because a requirements specification is an important preliminary work for your project and helps to lead it to success. It also offers other advantages:

  • Clear definition of goals and requirements creates security on both sides
  • transparency for client and contractor
  • fewer misunderstandings
  • time savings and more efficient cooperation

In addition, you create a legal basis for the project process, because the requirements specification is legally binding for both the client and the contractor.But how do you create a requirements specification for a software project? What content is mandatory and what is superfluous? The following information is absolutely essential when compiling a requirements specification:

Target definition

Every software project needs a clear goal. In the specifications, therefore, describe exactly which overarching goal you want to achieve with the use of the software. For example, if you want to introduce a document management system, the goal may be to digitally map and simplify associated work processes or to ensure greater transparency. Defining the goal gives both contractor and client orientation and makes it easier to prioritize requirements.

Remember to define your goals in the specifications according to the SMART principle. Accordingly, they should be

  • specific
  • measurable
  • attractive
  • realistic
  • scheduled


The general conditions of the project include, for example, the project budget and the time frame in which the introduction of the new software solution is to take place. Here, for example, important milestones or the desired project completion can be recorded in the specifications. The individual project phases can also already be added here with the time span planned for them. This includes, for example

  • Kick-off with the project team
  • final definition of the requirement
  • creation of a detailed project plan with timeline
  • implementation phase with regular coordination
  • Training of the users
  • go-live
  • Support and maintenance

Initial situation

Describe the current situation that is to be optimized by introducing the software. Also document your current IT landscape into which the new solution is to be embedded. In the case of our example of a specification for a DMS, this includes the systems used that are relevant for the document management system, e.g.:

  • ERP system
  • CRM system
  • Mail system

This part of the specification should also include a brief company description, which gives the solution provider the opportunity to get an overview of your company and to be able to better categorize it, especially when it comes to industry-specific features.

Concrete requirements & interfaces

In the requirements specification, also describe the requirements, services and interfaces that are necessary to achieve the target state. This also includes technical requirements that the software must fulfill or legal requirements that must be taken into account. In our DMS example, these include DSGVO and GoBD.

Open questions

Not all questions in a project have the right answer right from the start. It is often necessary to first agree on certain points with the solution provider. You should therefore be sure to collect all points worth clarifying and open questions in your specifications so that they are not forgotten and can be discussed with the provider at the appropriate time.Stakeholder involvement

In an extensive project such as the introduction of new software, various people from the company are usually involved. This can be, for example, the management, which, among other things, provides the project budget, IT, which will be significantly involved in the introduction and support of the new solution, or the data protection officer.

Make sure that these stakeholders are already involved during the requirements specification stage to ensure the flow of information.

Allow enough time

A specification is a comprehensive document that, unfortunately, is not created in the blink of an eye. Instead, it requires the expertise of various departments within the company to fully capture all the important information. Therefore, plan enough for the creation of the requirements specification.

Clearly formulate requirements

To avoid misunderstandings and queries, the requirements described in the specifications should be formulated both as clearly as possible and as simply as possible. Try to record as completely as possible what the software must be able to do, and make sure that it should also be possible to verify whether the requirements have been successfully implemented.

Realistic time planning

Depending on the planned software, the implementation of the project may well take several weeks. To avoid falling behind from the start, plan sufficient time for pre-planning, implementation and any correction loops.

Use a requirements specification template

Creating a detailed requirements specification is a complex task. Especially if you’ve never been tasked with it before, it can be a challenge to compile the contents of the specification in a complete and structured way and decide what belongs in there. Using a template can make creating the specification book much easier.With our comprehensive Word template, you can create your individual specification book quickly and easily, ensuring that your DMS implementation is a success.

Software requirements specification for the introduction of a document management system

Describe your DMS project precisely with the help of our software requirements specification template.

request template
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