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Software Requirements Software -- 10 Questions

Software Requirements Software -- 10 Questions

It's no accident that you've stumbled through Google looking for information on software requirements software. As development and product teams get more disparate, the need to have a single, centralized place for sharing and publishing software requirements becomes that much more critical. While there are so many of these types of software solutions on the market, your choice can become a "make or break" decision for the success and viability of your product. So what you'll find below are ten very important questions to ask when evaluating and selecting the best software requirements solution for your team.

Question 1: Why do I even need software requirements software?

Question 2: Do they offer a free trial?

Question 3: Are they an established business?

Question 4: Does it fit your process?

Question 5: Are the reports distributable and consumable?

Question 6: Is the data portable and secure?

Question 7: How steep is the software learning curve?

Question 8: How good is their customer support?

Question 9: Will I benefit from cloud pricing over time?

Question 10: Is requirements software platform customizable?

Question 1: Why do I even need software requirements software?

Before you head down the long and windy road of googling 'software requirements software', give some serious thought as to what you're really trying to solve and the core benefits you truly need before evaluation. That will help you figure out the deal-breakers during your process. The number one biggest reason for needing a software requirements software solution is that software requirements get lost and misplaced in emails and/or word and excel docs. There is no single centralized location for sharing and managing requirements.

The second reason is that software requirements are often poorly organized and prioritized incorrectly. The problem this causes is having the wrong software built which has an enormous cost down-stream. By prioritizing features and business requirements, the more significant iterations can get released first via a highly efficient and lean software approach like Agile or Scrum.

The third reason for investing in a requirements software solution is that teams are clearly more global and disparate now more than ever. Offshore development shops in South America, Asia and India are common place in saving development costs. But if the business and tech teams aren't understanding each other and not getting the prioritization, this will also lead to a chaotic build approach.

To sum it up, what can be gained is better software requirements across the teams. The right product can be built correctly the first time, and product and project success when the odds of product adoption are low

Question 2: Do they offer a free trial?

These days with the popularity of the freemium model, it's almost impossible to see a cloud based business without a simple registration form coupled with a free trial offer. Whether it's free for a period of time (like 30 to 45 days) or free to use until you hit a cap, cloud companies will typically give you a try before buy.

This also applies with the software requirements software market. These businesses like other cloud companies will give you this trial. And why wouldn't you want it? You wouldn't buy a car without test driving it, especially when you're about to invest time and money into it.

This should be one of your deal-breaker criteria. If the company you are evaluating doesn't offer this, be highly skeptical as to why they don't want you to try their product before providing credit card information. I for one wouldn't do it!

Question 3: Are they an established business?

In the world of cloud businesses, especially for software requirements software, the playing field is leveled and you can't often tell the difference between a real business and a "company in a garage". However, it's important to know the difference. Do they have a customer service number? If so, try calling it and see if you get an answer or if it's outsourced to India. Is there an employee bio on the company? Are there some "real" articles on Techcrunch or other established blogs that don't appear to just be advertisements? Is the office address a house or a PO box?

You will want to do some due diligence, because the last thing you want is to get into bed with a company which could be on the brink of bankruptcy, or has little to no support or have some software hacked together quickly. Given the choice of great software hosted by a poorly run business, or "pretty good" software hosted by an established business, I would take the established business any day.

The process of selecting and on boarding a software requirements software solution is very expensive, and again, you will want to limit the possible gotcha's that could happen. Remember, picking a real company with an office, may be a good shot at getting a well-supported and established solution. Your software requirements are too important to trust with an unreliable company.



Question 4: Does it fit your software requirements process?

Some software requirements software solutions will claim they fit all development processes, but in fact some are more built for Agile or Waterfall, but not both. Software Development shops that are Agile or Scrum based rely heavily on iterations, backlogs, and user stories. For that reason, the software requirements solution should also support these artifacts and processes. While a customer who is purely Waterfall would not care about any of these and would only get more confused to see them.

When evaluating different software requirements solutions, make sure to understand your own process with the software developers, and then make sure the solution supports it.



Question 5: Are the software requirement reports distributable and consumable?

At the end of the day, your deliverables are going to be your requirement reports like your Product Requirements Document, and perhaps traceability reports. The value that your system and requirements process will be based on how easy it is for your customer or management to "consume" and get value from the report. Does it make sense to them? Is it something they want to share? Does it help them collaborate and ask the right questions? If the answers are no, and if the reports appear sloppy or unreadable, your system is basically useless.

When youíre evaluating different software requirements software donít be shy about asking the vendor to send you some sample reports. Doe the reports inspire you and make you more excited to use it or does it look like an after-thought of their system. Can the software requirements report be rendered as a static report much like Google Docs does so it can be shared with others without mandating them to log in to view it?

So in a sense, you want to figure out if the output of the system is just as useable as the system itself. If your product customers can make decisions from the reports, they are providing value.

Question 6: Is the data portable and secure?

In the same context as the value of the reports, the data itself is even more valuable if it can be extended and ported into other systems. Closed software systems (ones that don't like to share their data and don't play well with the other 'kids') are becoming obsolete in the world of SaaS apps.

Especially for a software requirements solution, the software requirements should be shared with systems like QA and Dev systems like Jira, and other reporting systems that can take the data and add further value to it. It should do something as basic as accept data via an import process using a CSV or excel file and should output data the same way.

When managing your software requirements with software, the most important thing is keeping your requirements safe and secure. Does the vendor use encryption, strict password policies, and constant backups? Are users required to have strict passwords? The last thing you want is a competitor or a hacker to breach your system. Think Murphy's Law -- sure, not likely, but what can happen will happen. Minimize the risk.

Question 7: How steep is the learning curve?

Most likely your biggest cost of a software requirements process isn't what you actually pay for the software, but the countless hours invested in learning and loading up the system -- not just by you, but your team resources. When you add all of this up, I guarantee it will be much higher than whatever you're paying for the software. For this reason, selecting a software solution that has a smaller learning curve will pay huge dividends. Not just in terms of reducing time spent, but more likely that the process and solution will "stick".

When you first take the software for a test drive, you should have a good sense of how intuitive it is. Do you feel like you need to read a lot of help documentation? Does the GUI flow or do you keep getting lost? Do you need to email support with a bunch of questions? Does it seem like you're going to need to configure the software solution heavily or do you get 80% out of the box?

If you have more yes answers than no, that should signal a warning flag to continue your search. Better to burn a few hours trying some different software requirement software solutions than lose patience and pick the wrong one too soon.

Question 8: How good is their customer support?

Whatever software you purchase, there will be unexpected errors and glitches and that's a guarantee. For this reason alone, investing in a software requirements software tool with solid customer support is critical. You don't want to be in a situation where your team is mid-way through a configuration of the new solution only to find the customer service isn't answering the phones nor has no clue how to fix this. Have you ever called customer support only to get redirected to India with a subpar quality call?

Before investing too much time, as one of your first steps, call their 800 number and have a list of questions and take some notes. Did they answer the phone or did you get a 24 hour response message? Do they even offer a way to connect with a technical support contact or do they mandate you fill out a ticket using an online form? In some situations if they are responsive with their form, you may want to test that as well, but at the minimum you should be able to reach an actual support contact that has some knowledge of the software.

The software vendor having great customer support should be a make or break decision. I would take "good" software with "great" support any day over great software with adequate support.

Question 9: Will I benefit from cloud pricing over time?

These days software requirements software comes in two flavors -- hosted (cloud) and non-hosted. Good old fashioned hosted software means you (your business) takes ownership of the software and installs and operates it on their own hardware and within their firewalls. There is no "renting", other than annual upgrade fees the software belongs to the business. Given concerns of privacy, security and safety of data, many companies still opt in for a do-it-yourself hosting of software.

I'm sure you've heard of a little software company called Salesforce.com, which is a 25 billion dollar capitalized company, that makes their business from cloud computing. Though over the recent years, it's much more popular to rent the software via a cloud solution and reduce the capital overhead/costs up front. It definitely makes jumping into software much more affordable and less costly if you end up dumping the vendor after a year. Given almost everything is on the cloud anyway like all credit card companies, DropBox files, etc. -- as long as the company has strong security and privacy policies, it's not too much of a risk to select the cloud model and only pay as you go.

Unless your business has very strict security policies for how information is stored and shared, and other policies about how software is purchased, it's always easier, quicker and costs less up front to put your software on the cloud.

And when it comes to actual software requirements, it's becoming quickly popular to use this type of process in the cloud.

Question 10: Is requirements software platform customizable?

For the bulk of cloud software you need, the platform you choose will seldom need customization, and can provide 80% of what you need right out of the box. However, for many businesses they will absolutely need a software requirements software solution that can be configured and customized to handle changes to handle larger teams or more complex software development processes. If you are fairly certain that your business won't need customizations, you can skip this question.

However, if you do feel your software team will require a customization, when you're evaluating requirements software you should ask the company what kinds of changes they can make to the platform. Can they provide a custom report for you? Can they make changes to the workflow process? If they can make changes, what do they charge to do this.

Putting it all together...

By no means is this an exhaustive list of questions you should ask and I'm sure we can come up with another ten, but I will say these are probably the ten most important questions you should be able to answer. Does your team a favor and identify what are the important issues for YOUR team because they could be different based on your organization and team. Selecting a software requirements software solution is time consuming and will be expensive, so approach cautiously, do your homework and your team will be in great shape once you have a firm direction. Good luck!

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