requirements management tool

Requirements Management Tool -- Tips, Reasons, and more

Requirements Management Tool -- Tips, Reasons, and more

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When people talk about Requirements Management or "requirements management software", it is is still somewhat misunderstood within software development. The lack of an unambiguous and continually current definition of requirements is a major cause of project catastrophes. Problems are least costly to correct when they are detected early in the development life cycle particularly when the correction involves changes to the software architecture. Although, intellectually, most IT practitioners understand the value of developing and maintaining clear and detailed requirements throughout a project's life cycle, actually achieving this has been difficult.

1. Requirements Management: Historical Perspective

2. The Increasing Importance of Requirements Management

3. The value of Requirements Management

4. Pay back from using REQUIREMENTS MANAGEMENT Software

5. Top 10 Reasons for Requirements Management

6. Reasons to use a REQUIREMENTS MANAGEMENT Tool

7. The value of a REQUIREMENTS MANAGEMENT PLAN

When people talk about Requirements Management or "requirements management software", it is is still somewhat misunderstood within software development. The lack of an unambiguous and continually current definition of requirements is a major cause of project catastrophes. Problems are least costly to correct when they are detected early in the development life cycle particularly when the correction involves changes to the software architecture. Although, intellectually, most IT practitioners understand the value of developing and maintaining clear and detailed requirements throughout a project's life cycle, actually achieving this has been difficult.

1. Requirements Management Tools: Historical Perspective

Virtually all development projects begin with at least some notion of a definition of requirements. However, in too many cases the requirements definition activity is very informal (e.g., hallway conversations, emails, phone discussions). Of those teams that do begin a project with formally defined requirements, those projects are generally incomplete and inadequately managed or uncoordinated. More importantly, once requirements are captured, the documents in which they are housed generally remain static. That is, they represent the requirements as understood and defined at a particular point in time, usually early in the project life cycle. The development itself then proceeds into implementation using this static set of requirements during what could be thought of as a "quiet period" for the development team since the requirements are essentially frozen.

While this might initially seem like a logical approach to requirements management, the real world doesn't work this way. Change is constant and the one absolute in software development. Permitting changes to requirements in an uncontrolled manner throughout the development life cycle invariably results in confusion, missed schedules, and cost overruns. Frustration occurs among end users, analysts, developers, and managers alike. Laments such as, "Users keep changing their minds," "The application doesn't meet our needs," and "This project is taking too long and costing too much" are all too common.

2. The Increasing Importance of Requirements Management Tools

Requirements management has always been important but is now being increasingly recognized as vital to software project success as businesses rely more and more on software for conducting business and mission-critical functions.

Rework is responsible for over 40% of a development organization’s total spend - time and money that organizations cannot afford in today’s highly competitive environment. Most of this rework effort focuses on correcting requirements management informnation which could cost over 200 times as much as defects that are corrected close to the point of creation. Managing your requirements and getting them correct from inception is imperative.

Just what is involved in a formal requirements management process? The process elicits stakeholder needs, captures and communicates requirements to all team members, prioritizes and organizes requirements, and manages changes to requirements throughout the project life cycle. Formal requirements definitions and management are employed in many technical disciplines to a much greater extent than has been in evidence in the IT arena.

You can argue that Word documents, email, phone calls, and stakeholder meetings alone are adequate for managing requirements. This approach doesn't guarantee requirements definition that is communicated and understood by all parties. More importantly, it doesn't lend itself to managing the inevitable requirements changes that will occur throughout the life of the project. The goal must be to embrace and manage change, not to prevent it. In today's world of complex, multitier distributed systems and diverse and distributed development teams coupled with the mission or business-critical nature of software applications and relentless time-to-market pressures, casual, ad hoc management of requirements is becoming increasingly inadequate and ineffective.

3. The value of Requirements Management Tools

Requirements analysis is a colossal initial step in software development. And, managing changing requirements throughout the software development life cycle is key to developing a successful solution, one that meets users' needs and is developed on time and within budget. A crucial aspect of effectively managing requirements is communicating requirements to all team members throughout the entire life cycle. In truth, requirements management benefits all project stakeholders, end users, project managers, developers, and testers by ensuring that they are continually kept apprised of requirement status and understand the impact of changing requirements specifically, to schedules, functionality, and costs.

Requirements management has always been important but is now being increasingly recognized as vital to software project success. The goal must be to embrace and manage change, not to prevent it.

4. Pay back from using Requirements Management Tools

Requirements management is not limited to only software design and implementation tasks. Creating test plans and test cases based on requirements allows testing the intent of the system, not just the code. When test planning occurs in parallel with development, the time savings can be significant.

Many companies have software management tools and processes in place than organizations who have adopted formal requirements management. However, uncontrolled requirements changes can have as great an impact on the success or failure of a project as the lack of version control or code change management. Effective requirements management should span the complete life cycle from initial concept definition; through modeling, design, and analysis; through coding; through testing; to ongoing maintenance and enhancements. IT shops that do not have effective requirements management processes and tools in place are exposed to the risk of serious and costly project delays and rework.

The Gatherspace experience is a prime example of a vendor offering tools for IT organizations to support formal requirements management processes. Gatherspace offers a powerful solution for requirements management.

Gatherspace.com facilitates better communication, enhances team collaboration, and reduces project risk. A key feature of Gatherspace is its intuitive design, ability to connect and interlink features, requirements and use case examples. Since requirements are quite often proposed, updated, reviewed, and modified by a wide range of technical and Requirements management is not limited to only software design and implementation tasks.

5. Top 10 Reasons for Requirements Management

1. Increase project management effectiveness and cross-functional collaboration capabilities. By identifying and agreeing on requirements, your team will be taking the first step towards operational excellence.

2. Manage projects more accurately’ i.e. controlling costs, meeting project due dates, and fending off scope creep.

3. Ensure that detailed tasks are never lost through the cracks in organization no matter how broad or deep the requirements may range.

4. Assign responsibility, accountability, tasks, and even plan segregation of duties.

5. Ensure that service and contractual relationships are clearly defined. Originally defined terms and conditions including obligation dates and milestones can be managed more successfully.

6. Ensure that stakeholders fully understand project scope and complexity across the entire set of requirements that defines a project’s work breakdown structure (i.e. a set of work tasks).

7. The practice of requirements management is an ideal way to integrate processes. By identifying process-specific requirements you will be able to attack the major issues associated with process hand-offs (i.e. where one process ends and another begins).

8. The practice of requirements management allows your team to create a baseline; a defined set of requirements that have been agreed upon.

9. Requirements management discipline helps you to deal with business and technical change. Each requirement can undergo a formal review before it is accepted into a current project, or scheduled for a future time period. This allows you to stay focused on a current baseline.

10. The practice of requirements management allows users to understand the importance of requirements traceability. This enables users to conduct business impact and traceability impact assessments. This is a critical aspect of managing GRC projects and programs successfully.

6. Reasons to use a Requirements Management Tool

Even if you’ve done a magnificent job gathering your project’s requirements, automated assistance can help you manage them as development progresses. Here are some requirements management tasks these tools can help you perform.

Manage versions and changes. Your project should define a requirements baseline, a specific collection of requirements that a particular release will contain. A history of the changes made to every requirement will explain previous decisions and let you revert to a previous version of a requirement if necessary.

Store requirements attributes. You should store a variety of information, or attributes, about each requirement. Everyone working on the project must be able to view the attributes and selected individuals must be able to update their values. Requirements management tools generate several system-defined attributes, such as date created and version number, and they let you define additional attributes of various data types. Consider defining attributes such as author, person responsible, origin or rationale, release number, status, priority, cost, difficulty, stability, and risk.

Link requirements to other system elements. Tracing individual requirements to other system components helps ensure that your team doesn’t inadvertently overlook any requirements during implementation. You can define links between different kinds of requirements and between requirements in different subsystems. When analyzing the impact of a change proposed in a specific requirement, the traceability links reveal the other system elements that the change might affect.

Track Status. Tracking the status of each requirement during development supports overall project status tracking. If a project manager knows that 55% of the requirements allocated to the next release have been implemented and verified, 28% are implemented but not verified, and 17% are not yet fully implemented, then he or she has good insight into project status.

View requirement subsets. You can sort, filter, or query the database to view subsets of the requirements that have specific attribute values.

Control access. You can set access permissions for users. Web access lets you share requirements information with all team members, even if they are geographically separated.

Communicate with stakeholders. Most requirements management tools let team members discuss requirements issues over email. Email can notify the affected people when a new discussion entry is made or a requirement is changed.

7. The value of a Requirements Management Plan

A requirements management plan is piece of the project management plan. Generally, the purpose of the requirements management plan is to ensure customer and developer have a common understanding of what the requirements for an undertaking are. Several subordinate goals must be met for this to take place: in particular, requirements must be of good quality and change must be controlled. The plan documents how these goals will be achieved. Depending on your project standards, a variety of sections might be included in your requirements management plan. Some examples are:
1) Introduction to RM and document overview
2) Document scope
3) Issues affecting implementation of the plan, such as training on the RM tool

Another way of looking at the requirement management plan is that it's a contract or agreement among the project team and the customers describing how you will manage the requirements process. One process is using the traditional requirements management approach which is having a functional requirements document. A more modern approach to requirements management is to utilize the Use Case method.

If you ever have the opportunity to work on a high budget project where there are several business systems analysts from different vendors, things can get ugly. You could potentially having consultants using different formats to manage their requirements. Having a requirements management plan creates a uniform method and documentation template for documenting requirements.

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