Requirements Management and Communication (BABOK KA)

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Many BAs wait until their requirements specification is complete before they present it to some reviewers. Busy developers, testers, project managers, and users have difficulty finding the time to scrutinize a large document on short notice. It’s far more effective to review an evolving document incrementally. Give reviewers just a few pages at a time, preferably soon after an elicitation activity.

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In my view, the most powerful quality practice available to the software industry today is inspection of requirements documentation. A peer review is an activity in which someone other than the author of a work product examines that product to find defects and improvement opportunities.

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Adaptability is a word that is not used enough in the context of business analysis and collecting requirements. Though it is used in the project world, “adaptability” is more synonymous with project methodology or project teams as a whole than it is with requirements elicitation or requirements management. Being adaptive to your surroundings is what can save you from the perils of uncertain environments, non-engaged subject matter experts or the dreaded “analysis paralysis” effect.

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There is no single correct way to document specific requirements information. Every BA needs a rich tool kit of techniques at her disposal so that she can choose the most effective requirements view in each situation. In this article I offer some ideas about how to make that choice.

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As we travelled around India we were initially amazed at how the traffic flowed. India is a populous country, of course, and they have an ever-increasing number of vehicles.  No matter what time of day it was, the traffic seemed heavy. So, how can their constant flow of traffic work?
 

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An effective business analyst doesn’t just “write requirements.” Instead, the BA should think about the most appropriate way to represent requirements-related information in a given situation. Besides the traditional default of writing natural language statements, the BA should determine when a picture or some other representation would be valuable.

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If you create only one view of the requirements, you must believe it. You have no other choice. If you develop multiple views, though, you can compare them to look for disconnects that reveal errors and different interpretations. There’s an old saying, variously attributed to the Swedish Army, the Swiss Army, the Norwegian Boy Scouts, a Scottish prayer, and a Scandinavian proverb: “When the map and the terrain disagree, believe the terrain.”

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Your meeting is underway and while you’re attentively listening to the business SME explain the detailed process for transferring a policy from one agency to another, you find yourself feverishly jotting down notes as the nuggets of information being thrown out are too juicy not to capture. Then it hits you: you have no idea what the business SME is talking about!
 

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There are several situations in which recording only high-level requirements information increases the project’s risk. When you encounter situations such as the ones described in this article, expect to spend more time than average developing detailed requirements specifications.

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Several conditions make it appropriate to leave the requirements descriptions at a higher level of abstraction. Recognize that these are broad guidelines. The BA should perform a risk-benefit analysis to balance the potential downside of omitting important information against the effort required to include it.

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For several decades, software reuse has been a recognized solution to improving efficiency of software development. However, implementing reuse in practice remains challenging and the IT community has little visibility into the state of the practice specifically as it pertains to reusing software requirements. This paper presents the results of a survey conducted in the global IT industry in 2010 and discusses the state of the practice for software requirements reuse.

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Recently I was chatting at a wine tasting event with a couple of lawyers, who I had just met. One was surprisingly inquisitive about my work in the software requirements arena. Apparently she was working on case involving software at that very time. At one point she asked me, “How do you know how detailed to make the requirements?”

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So you want to be a better requirements analyst. Or maybe you’re completely new to business analysis and you just want to learn what requirements analysis involves, period.

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Structured business vocabulary is a missing ingredient in most current approaches to developing requirements. This omission should greatly concern every business analyst. Indeed, business vocabulary is key to a whole range of fundamental challenges, including but not limited to capturing business rules. One reason is that business vocabulary, like data and business rules, lives on beyond the point of system implementation and deployment.

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Requirements traceability ensures that each business need is tied to an actual requirement, and that each requirement is tied to a deliverable. This is a valuable practice for the business analyst. According to A Guide to the Business Analyst’s Body of Knowledge, (BABOK 2.0), all requirements are “related to other requirements, to solution components, and to other artifacts such as test cases. . . . The goal of tracing is to ensure that requirements (and ultimately, solution components) are linked back to a business objective.”

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