By Robbert van Os
Posted on 2023-05-16T00:00:00.000Z

Managing Functional and Non-functional Requirements for Balanced Growth

The journey of scaling tech companies: navigating complexities, ensuring efficiency, balancing technical and commercial value, and more.


The path of scaling a tech-driven company is strewn with unique challenges. One such challenge often faced by these businesses lies in effectively managing both functional and non-functional requirements. As companies grow, the complexity of their software systems and services increases, making the management of these requirements critical for success.

Unbalanced Focus on Functional Requirements

Functional requirements, which define specific behaviors or functions of a system, are generally well-articulated and understood. However, non-functional requirements such as system performance, security, usability, and reliability are often overlooked or realized too late in the development process. This can result in decreased development speed and increased software rework, leading to inefficient use of resources and potential delays in product launch.

Additionally, it's not uncommon for scaling companies, especially startups, to commence with a technical co-founder or technical lead who might not have significant business experience. This can be due to a variety of reasons, often financial constraints. While this setup can lead to a robust technical foundation, it can also result in an overly technology-centric focus, with not enough emphasis on balancing the commercial and technical value of a platform.

Impact on Business and Technical - repercussions

The skewed focus on technology can have several ramifications. It can lead to a disconnect between the business strategy and technical execution. The development team might build a technologically advanced platform, but if it's not aligned with the business needs or market demands, it may not yield the expected commercial success.

Moreover, technical language and nuances might not be well understood by business stakeholders, leading to miscommunication and misalignment. This mutual misunderstanding can hinder the decision-making process and the company's ability to execute its strategy effectively.

Taking a stab at it yourself

Balancing Non-Functional Requirements (NFRs) and Functional Requirements (FRs) without a liaison can be a challenge, but there are a few strategies that may help:

  1. Prioritize and Document: Both NFRs and FRs should be well-documented from the onset of the project. It's important to prioritize them according to the business goals and the impact they'll have on the final product.

  2. Incorporate NFRs Early: NFRs tend to be overlooked in the early stages of development, leading to issues down the line. These should be considered and incorporated from the beginning of the project, as changing them later can be time-consuming and costly.

  3. Frequent Communication: Regular communication among all stakeholders is crucial to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of both the NFRs and FRs. This will help maintain alignment between the business and technical sides.

  4. Training: Train both technical and non-technical team members in understanding each other's language and requirements. This can be done through workshops, joint meetings, or bringing in external consultants for training sessions.

  5. Use Tools: There are various project management and requirement management tools that can be used to track and manage both NFRs and FRs effectively.

  6. Iterative Approach: Using an iterative approach like Agile can allow for the adjustment of requirements as needed throughout the project, rather than having a set-in-stone list from the beginning.

  7. Balance Focus: Both NFRs and FRs are important for the success of the product. While FRs define what the system should do, NFRs define how well it does it. Both should be given equal focus and importance.

Remember, while a liaison can greatly help in this process, a committed and proactive team can also achieve this balance with clear communication and shared understanding.

The Role of a Liaison

Addressing this challenge requires a liaison - an individual or a team adept at translating between business and technical stakeholders. This role is not just about managing requirements; it's about ensuring that the company strikes the right balance between the technical and commercial value of its platform.

The Ideal Liaison: Background and Experience

To effectively serve as a liaison between business and technical stakeholders in a scaling tech company, the individual or team needs a particular set of background and experience. It's crucial to understand that this role is not equivalent to a business owner, a product owner, or a tech lead. While there might be overlapping skills, the liaison role requires a unique blend of these roles, coupled with a strong understanding of business strategy and technological expertise.

The ideal liaison is often a seasoned entrepreneur or coach, someone who has built similar solutions in the past and has experienced the journey of scaling a tech company firsthand. They bring the wisdom of their past experiences to guide the company through its growth trajectory, balancing the technical and commercial aspects of the business.

This individual should have a proven track record of navigating the complexities of rapidly growing businesses. Their experience is not limited to understanding different technological systems and languages, but extends to managing diverse teams, strategizing growth plans, and translating business needs into technology solutions.

The liaison’s role is multifaceted; it requires managing relationships, facilitating communication, ensuring alignment between teams, and providing strategic oversight. They are the fulcrum on which the balance between technology and commerce rests, enabling the organization to maintain this crucial equilibrium as it scales.

As a company grows, the role of the liaison becomes increasingly vital. With their unique blend of skills, they can ensure that the company’s growth is balanced, sustainable, and in line with its strategic vision, bridging the gap between technology and business success.