Entries for April 2007

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In this column, I summarize the 12 worst of the most common requirements engineering problems I have observed over many years working on and with real projects as a requirements engineer, consultant, trainer, and evaluator. I also list the negative consequences of these problems, and most importantly suggest some industry best practices that can he...
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Many managers and others who are not professional requirements engineers tend to greatly over-simplify requirements engineering (RE). Based on their observations that requirements specifications primarily contain narrative English textual statements of individual requirements and that all members of the engineering team are reasonably literate, the...
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The Use Case Model describes the proposed functionality of the new system. A Use Case represents a discrete unit of interaction between a user (human or machine) and the system. A Use Case is a single unit of meaningful work; for example login to system, register with system and create order are all Use Cases. Each Use Case has a description which ...
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In this fourth and final part of the series I'll share some of my advice for writing good specs. The biggest complaint you'll hear from teams that do write specs is that "nobody reads them." When nobody reads specs, the people who write them tend to get a little bit cynical. It's like the old Dilbert cartoon in which engineers use stacks of 4-inc...
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Now that you've read all about why you need a spec and what a spec has in it, let's talk about who should write them. Who writes specs? Let me give you a little Microsoft history here. When Microsoft started growing seriously in the 1980s, everybody there had read The Mythical Man-Month, one of the classics of software management. (If you haven'...
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This series of articles is about functional specifications, not technical specifications. People get these mixed up. I don't know if there's any standard terminology, but here's what I mean when I use these terms. A functional specification describes how a product will work entirely from the user's perspective. It doesn't care how the thing is i...
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It seems that specs are like flossing: everybody knows they should be writing them, but nobody does. Why won't people write specs? People claim that it's because they're saving time by skipping the spec-writing phase. They act as if spec-writing was a luxury reserved for NASA space shuttle engineers, or people who work for giant, established insu...
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Customers are never thrilled to find out they can’t get all the features they want in release 1.0 of a new software product (at least, not if they want the features to work). However, if the development team cannot deliver every requirement by the scheduled initial delivery date, the project stakeholders must agree on which subset to implemen...
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The path to quality software begins with excellent requirements. Slighting the processes of requirements development and management is a common cause of software project frustration and failure. This article describes ten common traps that software projects can encounter if team members and customers don’t take requirements seriously. I descr...




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