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April 11, 2005

Software development: realizing requirements

The importance of dealing with requirements is firmly on the radar, as vendors aim to deliver tools that improve software development project success. For too long, requirements has been a paper-based exercise, an activity that starts and ends at the beginning of a project. The fault in this approach is all too evident when people dig deeper to understand application development better.

By CBR Staff Writer

Requirements Management is becoming an increasingly vital element in IT projects.

Solutions do exist though: Requirements Engineering, a mature practice in the defense and aerospace industry, has now been re-branded Requirements Management, and is being applied to IT projects in general commerce. The latest product to appear is Telelogic’s DOORS XT, and Application Lifecycle Management vendors IBM and Borland have also integrated Requirements Management into their suites.

Requirements Management matters, possibly more so than any other aspect of application development. There is a parallel here with Business Intelligence and Data Mining, where the data is key. In application development, requirements acts as the ‘data’, and the old adage of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is equally applicable to requirements.

In Requirements Management the first step is to build a business case for a proposed application, then gather the requirements. This process must identify all the stakeholders in the application; all too often an application is built and only then is it discovered that a class of user has been overlooked.

Modern tools, such as those offered by Telelogic, Borland, and IBM, keep the requirements traced to code development – this ensures that the correct application is being built. However, the power of modern tools is to keep requirements in a central repository, so that any change in requirements is instantly propagated to all the project team: crucially, the developers and testers. Managing change is often where projects fall down: project schedules seldom cater for change, whereas in practice change is the norm not the exception.

However, the story does not end here, because once the application is released the user experience needs to be fed back and Requirements Management provides that feedback mechanism. New releases therefore carry the changed requirements from the production environment, as advised by all the stakeholders.

Software application development is undergoing a change: it is maturing, it is better aware of what can go wrong, and what needs to be done about this – Requirements Management is one of the solutions.

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Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)

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