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Ten steps to better requirements management

10 Steps to Better Requirements Management To learn more visit: http://www.ibm.com/software/rational/offerings/irm/ Requirements definition and management is recognized as a necessary step for the successful delivery of systems and software projects; the discipline is also required by standards, regulations and quality improvement initiatives like Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI). Creating and managing requirements is a challenge for IT, systems and product development projects or indeed for any activity where you have to manage a contractual relationship. Organizations need to effectively define and manage requirements to help ensure they are meeting customer needs, while addressing compliance and staying on schedule and within budget. The impact of a poorly expressed requirement can be devastating; it can have a domino effect that leads to time-consuming rework, inadequate deliveries and budget overruns. Even worse, a poor requirement can bring a business out of compliance or even cause injury or death. Requirements definition and management is an activity that has the potential to deliver a high, fast ROI. This white paper explains the characteristics of a good requirement and presents ten steps to better requirements management.

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Requirements management
White paper
June 2009




                          Ten steps to better
                          requirements management.
                          Dominic Tavassoli, IBM
Actionable enterprise architecture management
Page 2




                                                Introduction
                      Contents                  Requirements definition and management is recognized as a necessary step for
                                                the successful delivery of systems and software projects; the discipline is also
      2    Introduction                         required by standards, regulations and quality improvement initiatives like
      2    Defining a good requirement          Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI).
      3    Ten steps to better requirements
           management                           Creating and managing requirements is a challenge for IT, systems and
      8    Conclusion                           product development projects or indeed for any activity where you have to
                                                manage a contractual relationship. Organizations need to effectively define
                                                and manage requirements to help ensure they are meeting customer needs,
                                                while addressing compliance and staying on schedule and within budget.

                                                The impact of a poorly expressed requirement can be devastating; it can have
                                                a domino effect that leads to time-consuming rework, inadequate deliveries
                                                and budget overruns. Even worse, a poor requirement can bring a business out
                                                of compliance or even cause injury or death.

                                                Requirements definition and management is an activity that has the potential
                                                to deliver a high, fast ROI. This white paper explains the characteristics of a
                                                good requirement and presents ten steps to better requirements management.

                                                Defining a good requirement
                                                Because requirements are the foundation of any development project,
                                                teams need to understand the attributes of a good requirement. The best
                                                requirements are:

                                                •	   Correct (technically and legally possible).
                                                •	   Complete (express a whole idea or statement).
                                                •	   Clear (unambiguous and not confusing).
                                                •	   Consistent (not in conflict with other requirements).
                                                •	   Verifiable (it can be determined that the system meets the requirement).
                                                •	   Traceable (uniquely identified and tracked).
                                                •	   Feasible (can be accomplished within cost and schedule).
                                                •	   Modular (can be changed without excessive impact).
                                                •	   Design-independent (do not pose specific solutions on design).
Requirements management
Page 3




                                           Each requirement must first form a complete sentence, containing a subject
                   Highlights
                                           and a predicate. These sentences must consistently use the verb “shall,”
                                           “will” or “must” to show the requirement’s mandatory nature, and “should”
                                           or “may” to show that the requirement is optional. The whole requirement
                                           specifies a desired end goal or result and contains a success criterion or other
                                           measurable indication of the quality.

                                           Ten steps to better requirements management
      Organizations need to effectively
                                           Once these basic but necessary rules are applied, there are ten steps that help
      define and manage requirements
                                           organizations better define and manage requirements.
      to help ensure they are meeting
      customer needs.                      Step 1: Structure requirements
                                           Duplicate requirements can cause work to be performed twice, lead to
                                           conflicts, and eventually double your maintenance cost. Omitted requirements
                                           may lead to missing functionality or cause shortcomings (see below,
                                           “Constraints”). Requirements should be structured to enhance understanding
                                           while avoiding duplication and omission. Traceability to higher- and lower-
                                           level requirements enables teams to assess coverage.

                                           Structuring requirements is the first step in taking control and improving the
                                           quality of requirements.

                                           Step 2: Manage and link customer needs, requirements and contracts
                                           Organizations typically collect the customer’s needs, captured “as is.” These
      Requirements should be structured
                                           needs undergo an internal translation to requirements in a format that meets
      to enhance understanding while       the requirements characteristics described above. They may also be made
      avoiding duplication and omission.   more generic and less customer-specific (so the system can meet multiple
                                           customer needs). There is also often a stable contractual agreement, a legally
                                           binding third document. Organizations need to capture these levels of user
                                           requirements, maintaining intelligent traceability and change impact analysis
                                           between them.

                                           Specifications and contractual documents should be generated from the
                                           requirements repository; this central location should also maintain links to
                                           outside elements (e.g., customer documents, e-mails and contracts).

                                           By managing the multiple representations of customer needs, organizations
                                           have better control over contractual agreements and increase the chance of
                                           project success.
Requirements management
Page 4




                                             Step 3: Manage constraints
                    Highlights               Requirements must not only describe functional behavior. Nonfunctional
                                             requirements, also called constraints, can be critical for compliance and
                                             regulations and can add quality to the system. Typical nonfunctional
                                             requirements can specify:

                                             •	   Performance
                                             •	   Interface
                                             •	   Security
      Organizations need to capture          •	   Safety
      these levels of user requirements,     •	   Reliability
      maintaining intelligent traceability   •	   Availability
      and change impact analysis             •	   Maintainability
      between them.
                                             Writing better requirements includes providing coverage for constraints since
                                             shortcomings in these areas (e.g., performance, reliability and ease of use)
                                             generally cannot be reengineered back into the system once developed. By
                                             ensuring that they take into account all types of constraints relevant to their
                                             industry, organizations greatly increase their projects’ chances of success.

                                             Step 4: Visualize requirements
                                             Most requirements analysts find augmenting textual requirements with
                                             modeling helpful, whether this means drawing pictures on a whiteboard,
                                             utilizing presentation tools such as Microsoft® PowerPoint or simply creating
                                             a mental model. These representations should be managed alongside the
                                             requirements to help ensure consistency, traceability and change control.
                                             Visual requirements modeling provides a simple and powerful way to
      Nonfunctional requirements, also
                                             communicate with, and elicit requirements from, customers and end users. It
      called constraints, can be critical
                                             also helps clarify requirements and create a common understanding between
      for compliance and regulations and
      can add quality to the system.         all development team members and stakeholders.

                                             Although models and images should not replace clear, unambiguous textual
                                             requirements, by empowering visual requirements, organizations increase
                                             communication and collaboration across all stakeholders.
Requirements management
Page 5




                                            Step 5: Test requirements
                   Highlights               An efficient way to better manage requirements is to ensure they are clearly
                                            mapped to test cases. Making sure each requirement is clearly verifiable from
                                            the start not only helps prepare later phases of the project, but it also puts
                                            the writer in the correct state of mind. Note that this is true for the nominal
                                            functional mode (making sure the system or software does what it’s supposed
                                            to do). Requirements and their associated tests must also indicate what the
                                            system should not do, and what happens at the limits (degraded mode).

                                            This rule also applies to constraints (nonfunctional requirements): Indicating
      Visual requirements modeling          how they shall be tested is a good way to write better requirements. For
      provides a simple and powerful        instance, how would we test the requirement “The software must be highly
      way to communicate with, and elicit   usable”? A better requirement would be, “An untrained user will be able to
      requirements from, customers and      generate a report in less than three minutes,” for instance.
      end users.
                                            Organizations that ensure their requirements are clearly testable, early on in
                                            the process, can improve project success rates and enhance quality.

                                            Step 6: Bridge the chasm between business and development
                                            In many cases, the route to better requirements management is to have fewer
                                            requirements. Projects cannot always offer the luxury of implementing all
                                            customer requests, marketing ideas and business suggestions when they also
                                            have to meet budget and deadline objectives. Rather than trying to manage
                                            every requirement, project and product managers must be able to make
                                            decisions on those requirements that bring the most value to the customer
                                            and help the business improve innovation. This can be achieved by combining
                                            value and priority information from stakeholders and defining the right
                                            combination of requirements.

                                            By creating and maintaining this link between engineering requirements
                                            and business and customer needs, senior management can help ensure that
                                            resources are spent efficiently. Development and implementation can similarly
                                            align technical decisions with the organization’s strategy.
Requirements management
Page 6




                                            Step 7: Control change to requirements
                   Highlights               Requirements are subject to continual change. As a project progresses,
                                            organizations need to remain agile, adapt to engineering imperatives and
                                            respond to evolving marketplace situations and customer needs. Writing a
                                            perfect first requirement is insufficient if its evolution isn’t well managed—
                                            poorly controlled change can lead to inadequate systems and software, rework
                                            effort and loss of revenue.

                                            Organizations need to implement a reliable and repeatable change control
      Poorly controlled change can lead
                                            process that helps turn this challenge into an opportunity. As a result, they’ll
      to inadequate systems and software,
      rework effort and loss of revenue.    be more competitive, control schedules and respond to evolving customer
                                            needs.

                                            Step 8: Capture and track metrics and trends
                                            Today’s complex projects demand automated data collection and reporting
                                            facilities to streamline project management. As such, project managers and
                                            all stakeholders need a “management dashboard” of metrics and trends that
                                            enables them to quickly monitor project activities such as the progress, growth
                                            and volatility of actual requirements. In other words, project managers need
                                            to keep their focus on decision making instead of manually gathering data
                                            and compiling reports. Most importantly, the display of key requirements
                                            monitoring information must be at a high level, allowing users to manage
                                            by exception and spot trouble areas quickly. A high change frequency on a
                                            specific requirement or a whole subsystem may indicate that the requirement
                                            needs to be revisited with the customer. A large amount of rework on
                                            implementation may point at a poorly specified original requirement.

                                            Trends should also be used to learn lessons from past systems and software
                                            projects: Could issues and problems have been identified earlier on? This
                                            wealth of information must be used to build the organization’s knowledge
                                            database (see below). Tracking and analyzing trends is a key practice of CMMI
                                            levels 4 and 5, leading to continually improving corporate guidelines for
                                            writing better requirements.

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Ten steps to better requirements management

  • 1. Requirements management White paper June 2009 Ten steps to better requirements management. Dominic Tavassoli, IBM
  • 2. Actionable enterprise architecture management Page 2 Introduction Contents Requirements definition and management is recognized as a necessary step for the successful delivery of systems and software projects; the discipline is also 2 Introduction required by standards, regulations and quality improvement initiatives like 2 Defining a good requirement Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI). 3 Ten steps to better requirements management Creating and managing requirements is a challenge for IT, systems and 8 Conclusion product development projects or indeed for any activity where you have to manage a contractual relationship. Organizations need to effectively define and manage requirements to help ensure they are meeting customer needs, while addressing compliance and staying on schedule and within budget. The impact of a poorly expressed requirement can be devastating; it can have a domino effect that leads to time-consuming rework, inadequate deliveries and budget overruns. Even worse, a poor requirement can bring a business out of compliance or even cause injury or death. Requirements definition and management is an activity that has the potential to deliver a high, fast ROI. This white paper explains the characteristics of a good requirement and presents ten steps to better requirements management. Defining a good requirement Because requirements are the foundation of any development project, teams need to understand the attributes of a good requirement. The best requirements are: • Correct (technically and legally possible). • Complete (express a whole idea or statement). • Clear (unambiguous and not confusing). • Consistent (not in conflict with other requirements). • Verifiable (it can be determined that the system meets the requirement). • Traceable (uniquely identified and tracked). • Feasible (can be accomplished within cost and schedule). • Modular (can be changed without excessive impact). • Design-independent (do not pose specific solutions on design).
  • 3. Requirements management Page 3 Each requirement must first form a complete sentence, containing a subject Highlights and a predicate. These sentences must consistently use the verb “shall,” “will” or “must” to show the requirement’s mandatory nature, and “should” or “may” to show that the requirement is optional. The whole requirement specifies a desired end goal or result and contains a success criterion or other measurable indication of the quality. Ten steps to better requirements management Organizations need to effectively Once these basic but necessary rules are applied, there are ten steps that help define and manage requirements organizations better define and manage requirements. to help ensure they are meeting customer needs. Step 1: Structure requirements Duplicate requirements can cause work to be performed twice, lead to conflicts, and eventually double your maintenance cost. Omitted requirements may lead to missing functionality or cause shortcomings (see below, “Constraints”). Requirements should be structured to enhance understanding while avoiding duplication and omission. Traceability to higher- and lower- level requirements enables teams to assess coverage. Structuring requirements is the first step in taking control and improving the quality of requirements. Step 2: Manage and link customer needs, requirements and contracts Organizations typically collect the customer’s needs, captured “as is.” These Requirements should be structured needs undergo an internal translation to requirements in a format that meets to enhance understanding while the requirements characteristics described above. They may also be made avoiding duplication and omission. more generic and less customer-specific (so the system can meet multiple customer needs). There is also often a stable contractual agreement, a legally binding third document. Organizations need to capture these levels of user requirements, maintaining intelligent traceability and change impact analysis between them. Specifications and contractual documents should be generated from the requirements repository; this central location should also maintain links to outside elements (e.g., customer documents, e-mails and contracts). By managing the multiple representations of customer needs, organizations have better control over contractual agreements and increase the chance of project success.
  • 4. Requirements management Page 4 Step 3: Manage constraints Highlights Requirements must not only describe functional behavior. Nonfunctional requirements, also called constraints, can be critical for compliance and regulations and can add quality to the system. Typical nonfunctional requirements can specify: • Performance • Interface • Security Organizations need to capture • Safety these levels of user requirements, • Reliability maintaining intelligent traceability • Availability and change impact analysis • Maintainability between them. Writing better requirements includes providing coverage for constraints since shortcomings in these areas (e.g., performance, reliability and ease of use) generally cannot be reengineered back into the system once developed. By ensuring that they take into account all types of constraints relevant to their industry, organizations greatly increase their projects’ chances of success. Step 4: Visualize requirements Most requirements analysts find augmenting textual requirements with modeling helpful, whether this means drawing pictures on a whiteboard, utilizing presentation tools such as Microsoft® PowerPoint or simply creating a mental model. These representations should be managed alongside the requirements to help ensure consistency, traceability and change control. Visual requirements modeling provides a simple and powerful way to Nonfunctional requirements, also communicate with, and elicit requirements from, customers and end users. It called constraints, can be critical also helps clarify requirements and create a common understanding between for compliance and regulations and can add quality to the system. all development team members and stakeholders. Although models and images should not replace clear, unambiguous textual requirements, by empowering visual requirements, organizations increase communication and collaboration across all stakeholders.
  • 5. Requirements management Page 5 Step 5: Test requirements Highlights An efficient way to better manage requirements is to ensure they are clearly mapped to test cases. Making sure each requirement is clearly verifiable from the start not only helps prepare later phases of the project, but it also puts the writer in the correct state of mind. Note that this is true for the nominal functional mode (making sure the system or software does what it’s supposed to do). Requirements and their associated tests must also indicate what the system should not do, and what happens at the limits (degraded mode). This rule also applies to constraints (nonfunctional requirements): Indicating Visual requirements modeling how they shall be tested is a good way to write better requirements. For provides a simple and powerful instance, how would we test the requirement “The software must be highly way to communicate with, and elicit usable”? A better requirement would be, “An untrained user will be able to requirements from, customers and generate a report in less than three minutes,” for instance. end users. Organizations that ensure their requirements are clearly testable, early on in the process, can improve project success rates and enhance quality. Step 6: Bridge the chasm between business and development In many cases, the route to better requirements management is to have fewer requirements. Projects cannot always offer the luxury of implementing all customer requests, marketing ideas and business suggestions when they also have to meet budget and deadline objectives. Rather than trying to manage every requirement, project and product managers must be able to make decisions on those requirements that bring the most value to the customer and help the business improve innovation. This can be achieved by combining value and priority information from stakeholders and defining the right combination of requirements. By creating and maintaining this link between engineering requirements and business and customer needs, senior management can help ensure that resources are spent efficiently. Development and implementation can similarly align technical decisions with the organization’s strategy.
  • 6. Requirements management Page 6 Step 7: Control change to requirements Highlights Requirements are subject to continual change. As a project progresses, organizations need to remain agile, adapt to engineering imperatives and respond to evolving marketplace situations and customer needs. Writing a perfect first requirement is insufficient if its evolution isn’t well managed— poorly controlled change can lead to inadequate systems and software, rework effort and loss of revenue. Organizations need to implement a reliable and repeatable change control Poorly controlled change can lead process that helps turn this challenge into an opportunity. As a result, they’ll to inadequate systems and software, rework effort and loss of revenue. be more competitive, control schedules and respond to evolving customer needs. Step 8: Capture and track metrics and trends Today’s complex projects demand automated data collection and reporting facilities to streamline project management. As such, project managers and all stakeholders need a “management dashboard” of metrics and trends that enables them to quickly monitor project activities such as the progress, growth and volatility of actual requirements. In other words, project managers need to keep their focus on decision making instead of manually gathering data and compiling reports. Most importantly, the display of key requirements monitoring information must be at a high level, allowing users to manage by exception and spot trouble areas quickly. A high change frequency on a specific requirement or a whole subsystem may indicate that the requirement needs to be revisited with the customer. A large amount of rework on implementation may point at a poorly specified original requirement. Trends should also be used to learn lessons from past systems and software projects: Could issues and problems have been identified earlier on? This wealth of information must be used to build the organization’s knowledge database (see below). Tracking and analyzing trends is a key practice of CMMI levels 4 and 5, leading to continually improving corporate guidelines for writing better requirements.
  • 7. Requirements management Page 7 Step 9: Provide examples of good requirements Highlights By providing examples and counterexamples of good requirements and documents, organizations can enhance the quality, consistency and completeness of their requirements. These can originally be templates, industry standards and rules inside a repository, or a corporate intranet. The next step should be to use good (and bad) requirements from each project that reflect the organization’s domain expertise to build a corporate knowledge database. Textbook requirement examples rarely reflect a company’s needs as well as their own previous experience. Past requirements should be annotated during a project postmortem to indicate any notable information (positive or negative). New projects can, for example, examine the traceability that previous projects have used for regulations to understand how they were taken into account, and to identify teams that have already achieved compliance for their projects. Past requirements should be annotated during a project Step 10: Reuse requirements postmortem to indicate any notable When a good requirement has been written for a previous project and it is information (positive or negative). applicable to a present situation, the natural reaction is to reuse it, generally by copying and pasting the description. This unfortunately breaks the traceability and eliminates impact analysis. A smarter approach to reuse is to maintain a link between the two requirements (for example, creating a reuse type link). This enables analysts to access the original requirement at any time to check allocation of implementation, for instance. Likewise, any changes made to the original requirement (issues detected, updates needed) can lead to the notification of reusing teams. By implementing smart requirements reuse, organizations can improve knowledge sharing across teams and facilitate impact analysis.
  • 8. Conclusion © Copyright IBM Corporation 2009 Requirements definition and management are among the most important IBM Corporation Software Group activities in any project, and efforts in this direction can improve and Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 U.S.A. accelerate ROI. It is also the first process improvement area to focus on, based Produced in the United States of America on the “garbage in, garbage out” rule: If the requirements are not clear, any June 2009 other effort may just help you produce the wrong product faster. All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, and ibm.com are trade- The first step to better requirements management is to understand the simple marks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United rules that make a requirement “good.” Training courses and guidance can States, other countries, or both. If these and help organizations achieve this goal. other IBM trade-marked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols Once the basic rules are in place, organizations can further increase the indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this infor- quality of their requirements by implementing today’s best practices. These mation was published. Such trademarks may process improvement steps are greatly aided by implementing a requirements also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trade- management product that not only helps projects to manage requirements marks is available on the Web at “Copyright more effectively, but also helps future projects benefit from past and current and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/ copytrade.shtml lessons. Microsoft is a trademark of Microsoft Corpora- tion in the United States, other countries, or For more information both. To learn more about IBM Rational software from IBM, contact your IBM Other company, product, or service names representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit: ibm.com/software/rational may be trademarks or service marks of others. References in this publication to IBM products and services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates. The information contained in this documenta- tion is provided for informational purposes only. While efforts were made to verify the completeness and accuracy of the informa- tion contained in this documentation, it is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind, express or implied. In addition, this information is based on IBM’s current product plans and strategy, which are subject to change by IBM without notice. IBM shall not be responsible for any damages arising out of the use of, or otherwise related to, this documentation or any other documentation. Nothing contained in this documentation is intended to, nor shall have the effect of, creating any warranties or representations from IBM (or its suppliers or licensors), or altering the terms and conditions of the applicable license agreement governing the use of IBM software. IBM customers are responsible for ensuring their own compliance with legal requirements. It is the customer’s sole responsibility to obtain advice of competent legal counsel as to the identification and interpretation of any relevant laws and regulatory requirements that may affect the customer’s business and any actions the customer may need to take to comply with such laws. RAW14059-USEN-01