Requirements Best Practices

Tips to Ensure Success with RM: Stay Connected

John Simpson | March 27, 2014

The following is the first in a 7 part series of tips to ensure success in requirements management. Download the whitepaper, 7 Tips to Ensure Success with RM. 

It’s easy to forget, but the world relies on great software. Software operates the cars we drive, the planes we fly in, the cell phones we can’t live without and the tools we use every day to get our jobs done. Software is everywhere.

As a software professional, you know all too well that software development isn’t easy. A software product is never completed. There’s always an opportunity to improve functionality and there’s no shortage of challenges to overcome along the way:

  • Lots of people involved in the process
  • Customers have difficulty articulating their real needs
  • Requirements constantly change
  • Teams are spread across multiple geographies
  • There’s growing pressure to release products faster
  • The complexity of software doubles every 2-3 years
  • More projects fail than succeed

Whether you’re building a revenue-generating product or an internal system, your company’s overall success largely relies on your software team’s success. And, the path to building great software goes through requirements management. Organizations that embrace this concept enjoy greater results. They experience fewer errors and frustration, faster planning and development cycles and they’re able to deliver higher quality products to their customers.

The goal of this guide is to provide you seven essential tips to help you be more successful with requirements management. For some, these tips might be new. For others, these tips will serve as a good reminder of the fundamentals that are easy to lose sight of during the heat of a project. In addition, this guide includes links to other free resources that you can leverage right away in your requirements management process.

So much attention is placed on the high failure rates of software projects and for good reason. Any time there’s billions of dollars at stake and failure rates ranging between 60%-80%, people are going to pay attention. But, what you don’t hear as much about is the root cause. Last year, in The State of Requirements Management Report we polled over 200 professionals about the top challenges they faced in eliminating project failure, and the resounding theme boiled down to one thing – communication. If you can get connected and stay connected throughout the entire development process, you can eliminate the vast majority of issues.

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There’s two parts to staying connected. First, there’s the connectedness of your team, which has been popularized recently as “collaboration” – new buzzword, same meaning. Analysts, project managers, developers, testers, product managers, executives, stakeholders and customers – is everyone on the same page about what you’re building and why?

Keeping everyone connected is often easier said than done, but it’s absolutely critical to the success
of your project. Depending on the size and location of your team, you can do this manually through meetings, phone calls and documents or you can use a tool to help keep your team connected. It depends on your situation and the complexity of what you’re building. See number seven for the tipping points for when a tool might be valuable.

Second, there’s traceability – the act of connecting up the requirements and other artifacts such as use cases, test cases, tasks, defects and even user documentation – all the details that are related to each other within a project. For complex development projects, there can easily be hundreds or thousands of items involved and it’s critical to establish the traceability relationships between these items – both upstream and downstream.

For example, when a high-level business requirement changes 30 days into a project, through trace relationships you can then immediately assess the impact it has on any downstream functional requirements, tasks and defects that a developer or tester might be working on. This helps minimize errors and costly rework because the team members affected are aware of the specific change and its impact.

Implementing traceability and a change control process that’s appropriate for your situation is one of the most important steps to ensuring success. As a simple first step to establishing change control, you can use a change request form manually to document changes right now.

Read part 2 of this series: Take Action Now. Find more free requirements resources and download the whitepaper, 7 Tips to Ensure Success with RM.