The popularity of Agile methodology, along with the increasing trend toward automation in software development, has pushed requirements management solutions to evolve. The misconception that Agile methodology doesn’t work in regulated industries is outdated, but regulated industries have, justifiably enough, specific expectations of their requirements management (RM) solutions, and those expectations continue to drive change in the market.
A recent report from Forrester Research, “Now Tech: Agile Requirements Management Tools, Q2 2018,” outlines the state of the market for Agile RM solutions and lays out the questions customers should ask when selecting the right requirements solution for their space.
Why invest in requirements management?
According to Forrester, it’s not just highly regulated industries and organizations involved in complex product development that can benefit from a requirements solution.
In spite of the “a coalition of Agile aficionados arguing that it’s unnecessary to formally collect and manage requirements,” the report suggests that best-in-class RM solutions can significantly improve product design and delivery for Agile development teams: “In the face of increasing regulations, connected products for the internet of things (IoT), and scaling Agile practices, AD&D [application development and delivery] leaders long for something to bring traceability and auditability to their processes without sacrificing speed.”
Why do you need traceability?
The right RM solution enhances development transparency through traceability. Traceability is a roadmap that shows you where in the product development lifecycle each requirement or business rule was implemented. With traceability, teams are better-equipped to perform impact analysis – i.e., to assess the consequences of proposed changes. This is crucial in complex product development, where simple changes can have far-reaching impacts, and it’s tough to isolate every system component that might be affected by a change in requirements.
Teams facing increasing complexity, pressure to comply with industry regulations, and the need to measure customer value must be able to search, track, and connect interdependent requirements. Achieving a faster time to market demands that teams collaborate quickly and effectively while they work on building out traceable requirements and test cases.
Why is it important to reduce tech debt?
Forrester reports that RM solutions can also help Agile teams reduce technical debt. Agile teams are focused on moving quickly, so they sometimes fall back on fixes that are easy to implement right now, but that will require rework down the line. Basically, tech debt refers to the work you’ll have to do tomorrow because you cut corners today.
You can’t avoid tech debt entirely, and you shouldn’t even try; you can’t move quickly without accumulating a little. But as the Agile methodology becomes even more widespread and project complexity continues to grow, RM tools will help development teams understand what has been done, what will be affected in the next sprint, and how to improve collaboration within distributed teams.
Finally, the report suggests, development teams can use RM solutions to embed visual modeling, design, and prototyping into their product development process. By modeling customer journeys, business processes, system designs, and user-interface components, teams can ensure that the final deliverable meets stakeholder expectations.
How has Agile changed requirements management?
Agile teams expect to move fast, so RM solutions looking to penetrate this market must meet developers’ need for speed. Transparency is another priority for Agile teams, and the transparency and traceability offered by an RM platform empowers teams to move beyond what the report dubs “static, text-based requirements.” As we noted above, traceability enables more effective and timely impact analysis, a critical consideration for rapidly evolving requirements.
Even though plenty of Agile teams see the value of a requirements solution, Forrester notes that “vendors have shied away from the term [requirements management] and evolved their offerings to fit new product niches.” Part of this avoidance of the term is because people tend to associate “requirements management” with clunky, tedious processes that lacked the efficiency and ease of use that current solutions offer. In contrast, the requirements solutions favored by Agile teams are less highly specialized; they have different capabilities and focus on different segments of the development lifecycle. As such, the Forrester report suggests that Agile teams consider whether the best solution for them is not one solution but a combination.
How do you choose the right requirements solution?
To maximize success in requirements management, the report found, teams should choose a platform that works for their discipline (product management, engineering) and their industry (medical, automotive).
As we wrote in our recent post, “Systems Thinking for Complex Product Development,” collaboration is easier and delivers better results when teams are encouraged to find approaches that are effective for them within their disciplines.
Before investing in a RM solution, Forrester suggests that Agile leaders engage in some strategic thinking to determine which RM platform will deliver the most value in concert with other tools and solutions. Decision-makers should:
- Audit the tools already in use. Company and industry requirements drive investment, so understanding the existing ecosystem of tools already in place at your organization is essential in choosing the best RM solution for your particular needs. Take a close look at your Agile planning/project management, design, testing, and continuous integration tools to determine the best solution for your organization.
- Identify where requirements fall apart. If you have issues uncovering requirements to begin with, consider a tool with more advanced collaboration, design, and modeling capabilities to help you define exactly what you want to build. If your challenge is understanding the impact of requirements, passing tests, or avoiding bugs in production, you need a tool with greater traceability and robust reporting capabilities that can integrate with automated testing tools.
- Anticipate change. What changes are ahead for your industry? How will you be affected by new or evolving government regulations? Will your products be integrated with sensitive customer information? Now is the time to start laying the foundations for compliance with these future requirements.
- Right-size the need for documentation. What’s the future of Agile at your organization? Are you looking to scale Agile companywide? Even if you don’t need a super-robust RM solution now, you’ll need to implement some governance early unless you want to be drowning in technical debt.
To learn more about Agile requirements tools, download the full report, “Now Tech: Agile Requirements Management Tools, Q2 2018.”