Tag Archive for: change impact

Impact AnalysisImpact analysis is the assessment of the implications of changes, in the specific context of product development. It is integral to requirements management, as it offers insights into dependencies and gaps in coverage, which help inform decisions about the product’s lifecycle.

Let’s say an organization is developing a medical device and must change some of its requirements along the way – something that happens all the time. By conducting an impact analysis of this requirement and its dependencies, the product development team could accomplish all of the following:

  • Determine the ripple effects of the change: How will it affect higher-level requirements upstream and links downstream? Are there are any conflicts to resolve? Proper impact analysis answers these questions and in turn reduces the risk of unexpected consequences requiring costly remediation later on in the lifecycle.
  • Connect people, not just requirements: The impact analysis process should go beyond flagging at-risk upstream and downstream items. It should also reveal who is affected by changes, plus notify those team members about the necessary next steps. This is where live traceability and real-time collaboration in one platform really matter.
  • Assess what is required going forward: Impact analysis is ultimately about gaining visibility into the future – almost like a crystal ball – and acting accordingly. In addition to showing potential risks to existing requirements, it can also identify new requirements and test cases that may be needed for keeping the project on track.

Teams may perform impact analysis using multiple tools. A dedicated requirements management platform, with integrated risk management and end-to-end traceability, is ideal for fully mapping out the effects of changes and identifying subsequent action items, along with the personnel responsible for them.  When manual tools are used, data gets kept in silos which can create misalignment, poor visibility, and difficulty to assess the impact of change.

Replacing those manual workflows, which often revolve around software like Microsoft Word and Excel, is crucial for optimizing impact analysis. That’s because informed analysis requires accurate traceability, something made much easier with a proactive and automated platform that serves as a single source of truth at every stage of product development. In this way, requirements management software addresses the biggest roadblocks to effective impact analysis.

Overcoming the Obstacles en Route to Better Impact Analysis

From the rapid pace of innovation in industries like medical device development and automotive manufacturing, to the need to coordinate increasingly distributed and remote engineering teams, there is no shortage of possible challenges when building a complex, modern product. When it comes to impact analysis in particular, the three primary issues include:

1. Manual Traceability

Impact analysis isn’t possible without effective traceability. But with so many evolving requirements to keep track of, accurately tracing everything can be difficult without truly scalable and automated tools.

To see why, consider a hypothetical case in which a critical requirement needs an immediate change. The time constraints mean all upstream and downstream effects must be quickly accounted for, with requirements and other artifacts (like test cases) properly traced forward and/or backward as needed.

But doing so is difficult when working with nothing more than a traditional traceability matrix  housed in Excel or Word. The amount of manual work required could result in something being missed due to human error and a lack of comprehensive traceability within the matrix itself. The team might not realize they’ve overlooked missing coverage until it’s too late.

Solution: Live traceability provides straightforward navigation of upstream and downstream relationships, along with automatic identification of risky links. It also updates items in real time so that team members are always looking at the most accurate assessment of test coverage.

2. Inefficient Modes of Collaboration

Email-oriented collaboration only compounds the above problem. When lengthy, complex documents – which might not even be up to date – are emailed between teams, confusion, and delay are almost inevitable.

Simply staying current with any changes to project requirements can mean searching through your crowded inbox and trying to reconcile various attachments. Is “RequirementsDoc_v2FINAL” really the final version, or is there something more recent circulating under a different name?

In order to effectively conduct impact analysis, everyone tied to the requirements needs to be notified in real-time when changes are made and provide their input. Centralizing this information creates a more systematic way for change management and enables accountability within the organization on how decisions are made past and present.

Solution: Instead of email, use a real-time platform with instant notifications and the ability to pull in internal and external collaborators as needed. On such a platform, everyone is looking at the same data, which helps expedite review and approvals.

3. Rework and Opportunity Costs

Impact analysis is supposed to reduce risk by letting you see how specific changes will play out and empowering you to take any corrective action as early as possible. But when impact analysis is built upon manual processes and limited traceability, it can do the opposite and actually make projects riskier.

For example, extensive rework may be required to ensure that all requirements are met. This work represents a major opportunity cost, as the time sunk into correcting process-related problems could have gone into more strategic initiatives.

However, teams can avoid getting bogged down in rework by upgrading their impact analysis and traceability tools. Leaving static documents behind for an automated platform with real-time collaboration built-in is both reliable and helps to ensure product quality.

Solution: Invest in a platform that enables proactive, rather than reactive, requirements management. Features like live traceability that connect requirements to tests make it easier to handle changes as they happen and avoid costlier actions later on.

Fueling the Engine for Superior Impact Analysis

A modern requirements management platform enables streamlined impact analysis while bringing teams closer together to work in real-time, even if they’re physically distributed. As a result, analyzing upstream and downstream relationships becomes more practical, as does the overall development of high-quality products within budget and on time.

More specifically, the right solution will be an engine for better impact analysis, propelling key advantages throughout product development, including:

  • Automatic identification of suspect links: If a requirement is modified, the platform will automatically flag its downstream links as “suspect” so that team members can review them before proceeding with development.
  • Easier relationship navigation: Users can efficiently navigate upstream and downstream relationships. A visual schematic lets team members save time in finding missing coverage and make sure that they’re not overlooking anything.
  • Enhanced collaboration: Team members get notified about relevant changes and can be pulled in right away to respond, on a shared platform offering a single source of truth. This real-time setup is much more efficient than relying on email alone.

Want to learn more about how Jama Connect can improve your impact analysis? Set up a free trial today to get started.



The need for performing impact analysis is obvious for major enhancements. However, unexpected complications can work below the surface of even minor change requests. A consulting client of mine once had to change the text of a single error message in its product. What could be simpler? The product was available in both English and German language versions. There were no problems in English, but in German the new message exceeded the maximum character length allocated for error message displays in both the message box and a database. Coping with this apparently simple change request turned out to be much more work than the developer had anticipated when he promised a quick turnaround.

Impact analysis is a key aspect of responsible requirements management. It provides accurate understanding of the implications of a proposed change, which helps the team make informed business decisions about which proposals to approve. The analysis examines the proposed change to identify components that might have to be created, modified, or discarded and to estimate the effort associated with implementing the change. Skipping impact analysis doesn’t change the size of the task. It just turns the size into a surprise. Software surprises are rarely good news. Before a developer says, “Sure, no problem” in response to a change request, he or she should spend a little time on impact analysis. This article, adapted from my book Software Requirements, 2nd Edition (Microsoft Press, 2003), describes how the impact analysis activities might work.

Impact Analysis Procedure

The chairperson of the change control board will typically ask a knowledgeable developer to perform the impact analysis for a specific change proposal. Impact analysis has three aspects:

  1. Understand the possible implications of making the change. Change often produces a large ripple effect. Stuffing too much functionality into a product can reduce its performance to unacceptable levels, as when a system that runs daily requires more than 24 hours to complete a single execution.
  2. Identify all the files, models, and documents that might have to be modified if the team incorporates the requested change.
  3. Identify the tasks required to implement the change, and estimate the effort needed to complete those tasks.

Figure 1 presents a checklist of questions designed to help the impact analyst understand the implications of accepting a proposed change. (You can download the checklists and templates described in this article from http://www.processimpact.com/goodies.shtml.) The checklist in Figure 2 contains prompting questions to help identify all of the software elements that the change might affect. Traceability data that links the affected requirement to other downstream deliverables helps greatly with impact analysis. As you gain experience using these checklists, modify them to suit your own projects.

Figure 1. Checklist of possible implications of a proposed change.

Figure 2. Checklist of possible software elements affected by a proposed change.

Following is a simple procedure for evaluating the impact of a proposed requirement change. Many estimation problems arise because the estimator doesn’t think of all the work required to complete an activity. Therefore, this impact analysis approach emphasizes comprehensive task identification. For substantial changes, use a small team—not just one developer—to do the analysis and effort estimation to avoid overlooking important tasks.

  1. Work through the checklist in Figure 1.
  2. Work through the checklist in Figure 2, using available traceability information. Some requirements management tools include an impact analysis report that follows traceability links and finds the system elements that depend on the requirements affected by a change proposal.
  3. Use the worksheet in Figure 3 to estimate the effort required for the anticipated tasks. Most change requests will require only a portion of the tasks on the worksheet, but some could involve additional tasks.
  4. Total the effort estimates.
  5. Identify the sequence in which the tasks must be performed and how they can be interleaved with currently planned tasks.
  6. Determine whether the change is on the project’s critical path. If a task on the critical path slips, the project’s completion date will slip. Every change consumes resources, but if you can plan a change to avoid affecting tasks that are currently on the critical path, the change won’t cause the entire project to slip.
  7. Estimate the impact of the proposed change on the project’s schedule and cost.
  8. Evaluate the change’s priority by estimating the relative benefit, penalty, cost, and technical risk compared to other discretionary requirements.
  9. Report the impact analysis results to the CCB so that they can use the information to help them decide whether to approve or reject the change request.

In most cases, this procedure shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to complete. This may seem like a lot of time to a busy developer, but it’s a small investment in making sure the project wisely invests its limited resources. If you can adequately assess the impact of a change without such a systematic evaluation, go right ahead; just make sure you aren’t stepping into quicksand. To improve your ability to estimate the impacts of future changes, compare the actual effort needed to implement each change with the estimated effort. Understand the reasons for any differences, and modify the impact estimation checklists and worksheet accordingly.

Figure 3. Estimating effort for a requirement change.

Money Down the Drain

Here’s a true story about what can happen if you don’t take the time to perform impact analysis before diving into implementing a significant change request. Two developers at the A. Datum Corporation estimated that it would take four weeks to add an enhancement to one of their information systems. The customer approved the estimate, and the developers set to work. After two months, the enhancement was only about half done and the customer lost patience: “If I’d known how long this was really going to take and how much it was going to cost, I wouldn’t have approved it. Let’s forget the whole thing.” In the rush to gain approval and begin implementation, the developers didn’t do enough impact analysis to develop a reliable estimate that would let the customer make an appropriate business decision. Consequently, the A. Datum Corporation wasted several hundred hours of work that could have been avoided by spending a few hours on an up-front impact analysis.

Impact Analysis Report Template

Figure 4 suggests a template for reporting the results from analyzing the potential impact of each requirement change. Using a standard template makes it easier for the CCB members to find the information they need to make good decisions. The people who will implement the change will need the analysis details and the effort planning worksheet, but the CCB needs only the summary of analysis results. As with all templates, try it and then adjust it to meet your project needs.

Figure 4. Impact analysis report template.

Requirements change is a reality for all software projects, but disciplined change-management practices can reduce the disruption that changes can cause. Improved requirements elicitation techniques can reduce the number of requirements changes, and effective requirements management will improve your ability to deliver on project commitments.

Jama Software has partnered with Karl Wiegers to share licensed content from his books and articles on our web site via a series of blog posts, whitepapers and webinars.  Karl Wiegers is an independent consultant and not an employee of Jama.  He can be reached at http://www.processimpact.com.  Enjoy these free requirements management resources.