Reason for Topic
Requirements should flow and iterate, not simply be “managed”. Requirements are important, but only one of a number of critical components in software work planning and implementation. Therefore, it is more useful to find a project or work communication system that has requirements as a first-class citizen and avoid maintaining system-of-record silos of requirements separate from the work that produces and depends on them.
Introduction / Definition
Requirements management is the process of documenting, analyzing, tracing, prioritizing and agreeing on requirements and then controlling change and communicating to relevant stakeholders. It is a continuous process throughout a project. A requirement is a capability to which a project outcome (product or service) should conform.
A Process Behind Software Delivery
Requirements Managements is essential in quality engineering because it helps to ensure that the product meets the customer’s expectations. A systematic approach to managing requirements also helps to eliminate errors, ambiguities, and inconsistencies in the requirements. By doing so, Requirements Management enables teams to identify and resolve issues before they turn into problems.
When done well, Requirements Management establishes traceability throughout the development process. This traceability allows the team to ensure that all the requirements are met and that the product is delivered as expected. Moreover, this process provides a centralized location to store and track requirements, making it easy for stakeholders to review, approve, and change the requirements as needed.
However, if treated as a silo of information and not well-connected and maintained, the requirements management data entry may not keep up with developments in the design and implementation process. Teams often use work-tracking systems (such as JIRA) to connect work to requirements, but this often falls short of managing and maintaining requirements as a whole. Difficulties reporting on the fulfillment of implementation, as evidenced by both automated and manual testing activities, leave teams wondering if requirements were actually met.
This is where traditional approaches to requirements management often fall behind modern, continuous delivery processes. When taken too loterally, a top-down requirements management approach often leads to thinking that you’ll know everything up-front, a key fallacy that Project Management professionals are trained against by the phrase “Progressive Elaboration” (we know that we won’t know everything up front, so let’s admit that and leave room for learning as we go).
Benefits & Examples
Good Process Supported by Good Tools
A good Requirements Management process facilitates collaboration and communication among the team members. Proper tooling within this process provides a platform for team members to share information, ideas, and feedback, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Furthermore, these tools enable the team to prioritize requirements based on their importance, ensuring that the most critical requirements are met first. This prioritization reduces the risk of defects and improves the overall quality of the product.
In highly mature organizations, requirements management and associated tooling can even automatically generate test cases from the requirements, reducing the time and effort required for manual testing. Automated testing helps to ensure that the product meets the customer’s requirements and specifications, which is essential for delivering a high-quality product. While auto-generated tests sound great, they don’t always lead to faster delivery or better coverage, so teams should still be prepared to think wisely about balancing expectations and outcomes of this approach.
This is why Requirements Engineering (RE) as a practice should be part of an organization’s overall approach to Quality Engineering (QE). The fewer bad assumptions go in to delivery, the less likely defects caused by those assumptions will be the result. Similarly, the better connection work has to an organizations business mission and risk policy, the more likely it will result in the desired business outcomes.
Risk Management and Project Status Accounting
Requirements Management also plays a crucial role in risk management. By identifying and tracking risks associated with the requirements, these requirements management tools enable the team to mitigate and manage risks effectively. Moreover, these tools allow the team to perform impact analysis, which helps to assess the potential impact of changes to the requirements on the project’s timeline, cost, and quality.
An effective Requirements Management process also provides valuable insights into the project’s progress and status. Good tools to support this process generate reports that provide stakeholders with visibility into the requirements, their status, and their implementation. These reports help to ensure that the project is on track and that the product meets the customer’s requirements and expectations.
A Thorough History of Standards
As you can imagine, requirements engineering and management has been around for a long time. Here are just a few of the existing public standards relating to Requirements Engineering and Management:
While these standards thoroughly and clearly outline (sometimes in excruciating detail) what the process outcomes should be, much (proscriptive guidance) is often left to pop culture and vendor-driven writings, this publication included. If you have the luxury of co-workers or colleagues with some background or experience in formal requirements management, you should definitely engage them to take an honest and objective look at practices and processes that you think could stand improvement.
Drawbacks / Gotchas
While Requirements Management tools provide numerous benefits, there are also some challenges and drawbacks that organizations may encounter when using them. Here are some of the common challenges and drawbacks of Requirements Management tools:
- Cost: One of the main challenges of using Requirements Management tools is the cost associated with them. These tools can be expensive to purchase and implement, which may not be feasible for small organizations with limited budgets.
- Complexity: Requirements Management tools can be complex to use, requiring extensive training and expertise. This can be a challenge for teams that are not familiar with the tool or do not have the resources to support it.
- Customization: Many Requirements Management tools are highly configurable and customizable, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Customization can take time and resources, and if not done correctly, it can result in additional complexity and challenges.
- Integration: Integration with other tools and systems can be challenging, particularly for organizations that have multiple tools and systems in use. Ensuring seamless integration between the Requirements Management tool and other systems is crucial for maintaining data consistency and avoiding errors.
- Resistance to change: The adoption of Requirements Management tools can face resistance from team members who are accustomed to traditional ways of managing requirements. It may take time and effort to convince team members of the benefits of using these tools and to get everyone on board.
- Maintenance: Requirements Management tools require regular maintenance, updates, and support. Organizations need to have the necessary resources and expertise to ensure that the tool is functioning correctly and that any issues are addressed promptly.
Requirements Management and associated tools are essential in quality engineering because they help to ensure that not only does “the product” meet the customer’s expectations, but that teams are communicating and collaborating effectively about how customer and business needs are met by the work they plan and do. They provide a systematic approach to managing requirements, establish traceability throughout the development process, facilitate collaboration and communication among team members, automate the testing process, manage risks effectively, and provide valuable insights into the project’s progress and status. By doing so, software delivery teams that seek to improve their quality engineering practices can deliver high-quality products to meet the customer’s requirements and specifications.