The 5 Signs You Know You Need Web-based Requirements Management

John Simpson | November 17, 2008

If you’re like 80% of companies, you’re still using documents, spreadsheets and email to manage product requirements.  It’s easy enough.  You fire up Microsoft Word, you start writing your Software Requirements Specification (SRS) or the Product Requirements Document (PRD).  When you’re done, you email it to the team, maybe post the content up on a Wiki or in a document management system.  No problem, right?

What happens when change occurs and the document is 200-pages long because what you’re building is a complex software product?  When do you reach the tipping point of needing a specialized solution for managing all the requirements and scope of what you’re building?

In the vein of a classic Cosmo article, here are the 5 tall tale signs you know you need an extreme make-over.  Umm, sorry, we mean you need Web-based requirements management

1. Complexity.

Rule of thumb:  The more complex the project, the greater the need.

The complexity of software products is doubling every 2-3 years.  If you’re managing development projects with hundreds or thousands of requirements, you’re ready.

Benchmark:  72% of teams have projects that have at least 100+ requirements.  For 5% of companies, their average project has over 5,000 requirements.

2. Team Size Matters.

Rule of thumb:  The bigger the team, the greater the need.

If you’ve ever worked on a large team, you know that keeping everyone on the same page is a never-ending challenge.  If your team exceeds 10 or includes someone as disorganized as me, you’re ready.

Benchmark:  Over 40% of teams have at least 25 members and stakeholders.

3. Location, Location, Location.

Rule of thumb:  The more geographically distributed you are, the greater the need.

Teams today are virtual, working from offices in different time zones and countries.  If 10% of more of your team is virtual, you’re ready.  The single whiteboard of requirements and development tasks on sticky notes just won’t work anymore.

Benchmark:  Over 60% of teams have at least 10% of their team working in different locations.

4. Change Happens.

Rule of thumb:  The more change you have to manage through, the greater the need.

Requirements aren’t “artifacts”, that would imply they don’t change.  Requirements in today’s world are alive – they grow, they change, they evolve over time.  Managing revision after revision of requirements specification documents is painful, both for the author and the recipients trying to decipher what changed.  If you spend 10% or more of your week dealing with changes to requirements, you’re ready.

Benchmark: Over two-thirds of teams spend at least 10% of their time just managing changes to requirements.

5. The Other “F” Word – Failure.

Rule of thumb:  The lower the success rate, the greater the need.

Don’t worry, this isn’t group therapy, we all know the historical failure rates for software projects.  If your last project didn’t end well, then you already know you’re ready.

Benchmark:  Three out of four teams have a success rate of 60% or less, so you’re not alone.

Note: these benchmarks are from the industry survey data available in the 2008 State of Requirements Management Report.

So, how did you score?

If you’re experiencing 2 or more of these signs, then it might be time to explore using a specialized product requirements management tool.  There are a few 3rd-party sites that provide the full list of tools available: INCOSE, and Jiludwig.

At Jama, we can help you with product requirements management.  Now, when it comes to the Cosmo extreme make-over, you’re on your own.