Every project starts as a blank piece of paper. Finding a starting point can be a challenge when initiating a project. To get things moving, you can begin project requirement gathering with document analysis.

The process of document analysis will give you a solid base to form the questions you’ll want to ask and let you know what existing parameters you need to work within. It will help you figure out:

  • Who you should be talking to
  • Any missing data that needs to be sourced
  • Existing business rules
  • Processes that you need to work within

In this article, we’ll explain how you can use document analysis to accomplish these goals.

How to do document analysis

The current paper trail that’s been generated and used by the project stakeholders are a valuable source of information. You will get valuable insight into how the business has been run up to this point and highlight strengths and weaknesses.

First, you need to ask your stakeholders to provide the necessary documents. There will be source material galore in most companies. Some of the things you can request include:

  • Benchmarking studies
  • Business plans
  • Training guides
  • User manuals
  • Customer contracts
  • System specifications

Once you’ve got the documents, they need to be processed methodically.


To begin, you need to identify the documents that are available. Each project will be different so although you can have a ready-made list to ask for, you will need to review it for suitability for each project.

When getting ready for document analysis, it’s worth understanding the volume of documentation coming your way. A van load of papers arriving when you only have two analysts and a couple of cubicles is going to cause difficulties.


Documents in hand, it’s time to dig into the details. It’s not just time to read, you’ll need to ensure notes are taken and briefs written so anyone coming into the project can get up to speed at a later date.

During this step, you will start to find the questions that you need answering later in the process. There may be conflicting business rules or a recurring issue in customer correspondence that you want to understand better.


The main stakeholders need to come into the process once you’ve done the leg-work. Confirming your understanding and clarifying your initial findings will make the rest of process run smoothly.

When to use document analysis

Reading through the situation as it stands in a business before you try to implement a project works as a good starting point. Figuring out what your stakeholders are used to will also give you some direction. Getting this information now will mean a smoother transition later in the project.

It’s a particularly useful tool when other sources of information are missing. In situations such as:

  • Starting a project in a company that has new ownership
  • Working within a company that has multiple legacy systems
  • A former subject matter expert is no longer with the company

When the current stakeholders can’t offer you much information, document analysis will offer valuable insight.


When you need a place to begin gathering project requirements, document analysis will give you a great foundation. Learning about where the company is up to now as well as what has been valued in the past will ensure you get the project started well.

It can be a time consuming and costly process. There’s a lot of man hours that will go into trawling endless piles of documents. The big investment early on in the process should give you good returns when you come to preparing surveys or conducting interviews later on.