29 February 2012

Why do I need a Requirements Management tool?

It’s no secret that poor requirements lead to poor quality products and that these projects are often filled with scope creep. The challenges with a document based approach to requirements are many, including the fact that it is difficult to keep them up to date in the ever changing of software development. Even if you have done a stellar job in gathering and documenting user requirements the task of managing the requirements has just begun.

Here are some primary reasons for using an automated Requirements Management tool according to Karl Wiegers www.processimpact.com article on Automating Requirements Management).

Manage versions and changes. Most systems are released in an iterative (or Agile) fashion today. This means that requirements will have versions associated with the release. Being able to track changes and identify the impact of changes is controlling change and scope creep.

Store additional information about the requirement in requirements attributes. There is so much more we need to know a requirement other than the requirements statement. For example: status of the requirements (in work, approved), priority, who requested it, test status). These are just a few suggestions.

Link requirements to other system elements. In order to ensure all requirements are part of the product, all requirements are tested, changes are evaluated, etc. we need to be able to link requirements to other system elements.

Track status. Think of being able to do create a list of all requirements that are not approved, all requirements that are not linked to lower level requirements, and all requirements that are not tested. These are the kinds of information that helps us really know the status of the project.

View requirements subsets. Think of being able to view all high priority requirements that do not have a test method assigned. Or a security office who wants to review only the security related requirements. Being able to filter requirements to only include information the user is interested in seeing reduces the time required to review these requirements.

Control access. You will want to make sure that business analysts can only modify user requirements; system analysts can only modify system requirements, and so on. Once approved, access to requirements must be limited so no further changes can be made without a review.

Communicate with stakeholders. Notification of changes is essential to making sure stakeholders are aware of all potential changes. Most requirements management tools can assist in automatically providing this kind of notification.

For those of us who have used requirements management tools, it is difficult to imagine going back to doing that work on paper. And I believe there are few of us that would choose to go back to that method. I personally would take any requirements management tool over a document-based approach. However it is amazing to me that many organizations of all sizes continue to rely on document-based tools to manage their requirements. Using a Requirements Management tool is a required first step to getting control of requirements.

BY: Marcia Stinson


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