Requirements Management and Communication (BABOK KA)

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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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In that article we presented our case that the typical approach to business requirements management was fundamentally flawed, with key issues being development of business requirements within a project context, and capture of those requirements using unstructured artifacts, particularly narrative.

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Is documentation a blessing or a curse? If you’re working on an agile project does it get in the way? If you’re updating a core system that runs your company’s business, are you cursing the analyst who didn’t adequately document all the business functionality? Is today’s agile project tomorrow’s core system?

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Thousands of business analysts have turned to software visualization from as a strategy to simplify their jobs and cut through the confusion. With iRise, business analysts are empowered to quickly assemble a high-fidelity working preview of an application before development ever begins. These visualizations look and act just like the final product, creating an accurate visual model for what to build.

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