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Requirements development is hard. Major requirements problems remain, especially on larger projects, even when basic requirements development and management practices are effectively used. Part of the problem is that requirements development is less about technical activities like specifying and analyzing and more about messy human activities like teaming, discovering, communicating, and negotiating. Human factors get in the way of efficiency. High precision is unnatural to many people. Ambiguous communication is the rule, not the exception.
This workshop surveys more than 50 safety tactics that you can use in any combination to develop a requirements risk management strategy tailored to the dangers in your situation. By practicing some of the safety tactics and experiencing their impact firsthand you will learn about tactics for avoiding failures, mitigating the impact of defects, minimizing communication problems, and monitoring status as well as tactics for staffing, planning, and preparing for requirements risk management.
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- Course Outline
Section I. Why is Requirements Development So Hard?
Of all project activities, requirements development has changed the least in approach and results. Its importance is recognized, so why aren't we doing better? This section describes the nature of the challenge.
- Challenge of communication
- Why review and analysis don’t fit find most defects
- Role of human factors
- Why requirements are dangerous
Section II. Types of Requirements Risk
There are many things that impact the quality of requirements and many things that requirements can affect. We factor requirements risk into seven groups and describe the contents of each.
- Application risk
- Stakeholder risk
- Process risk
- Resource risk
- Change risk
- Implementation risk
- Defect risk
EXERCISE: Participants identify their requirements risks. Then, teams share their risks with the entire group.
Section III. Requirements Risk Management
After admitting the danger, a project team must control its requirements risk. This section describes the challenges of a risk management process.
- Recognizing requirements risk
- Forecasting project-specific dangers
- Developing a strategy
- Monitoring reality
Section IV. Safety Tactics 1: Avoiding Requirements-based Failures
Projects become famous failures by promising a lot, consuming resources, and delivering little or nothing. Tactics in this section focus on avoiding this type of fame.
- Reconfirm reality and satisfiability of stated needs
- Triage and prioritize requirements
- Manage customer expectations
- Reconfirm project feasibility or reduce scope
- Identify and resolve conflicts early
- Commit incrementally
EXERCISE: The entire group identifies challenges of incremental commitment — why might it be hard?
Section V. Safety Tactics 2: Mitigating Impact of Requirements-based Problems
Requirements will conflict and be defective, despite your best efforts. This section describes tactics that reduce the impact of these problems.
- Require frequent demos of understanding
- Decouple vision from build
- Prototype unfamiliar functions and interfaces
- Subdivide project scope
- Build in multilane cycles
Section VI. Safety Tactics 3a: Minimizing Communication Problems
Clear project communication is one of the core challenges of system development. Natural language is a major problem, because it is so natural. This section describes alternatives and supplements to text blocks.
- Maintain a climate of safety and respect
- Document assumptions
- Mark intentional imprecision
- Use rich definitions
- Use derived values rather than "magic numbers"
- Identify user types and create user personas
- Clarify with examples and measures
- Structure information with spec patterns
- Picture requirements information
- Capture context
EXERCISE: Teams create rich definitions including a derived value, quality profile, and action contract. Team definitions are shared with the entire group.
EXERCISE: Teams replace a "magic number" with a derived value.
EXERCISE: Teams create a state transition table and then share with the entire group.
Section VII. Safety Tactics 3b: Minimizing Other Problems
Beyond communication, there are other problems that can be reduced with specific minimization tactics. This section describes these added tactics.
- Improve results of current requirements development process
- Identify minimal sets of marketable features
- Focus on quality and environmental requirements early
- Identify impacts and mitigation strategies
- Analyze benefits, risks, priority, and cost of proposed requirements and changes
Section VIII. Safety Tactics 4: Monitoring Requirements Status
Requirements and their related information (e.g. defects) must be monitored to detect expected and unexpected risk. This section describes tactics that provide this monitoring.
- Monitor requirements instability and growth
- Monitor accuracy of assumptions, expectations, and priorities
- Monitor stakeholder participation
- Use workshops to find issues early
- Incrementally review long specifications
- Identify unclear, imprecise, and missing information
- Estimate defect risk
- Verify satisfaction arguments of derived requirements
- Track requirements defects
- Analyze and classify requirements defects and root causes
EXERCISE: The entire group interprets requirements change measures.
Section IX. Safety Tactics 5: Staffing for Requirements Development
People, their involvement, knowledge, and behavior make all the difference. This section focuses on getting the right people, with the right perspective and skills to do the job right.
- Build cross-functional team
- Supplement with outside knowledge, skill, and experience
- Replace underperformers and disruptors
- Train stakeholders in technical communication
- Immerse stakeholders
Section X. Safety Tactics 6: Planning for Requirements Risk Management
To get risk management off to a solid start, you need to understand what information people need and what bad things might happen as you try to get it. This section deals with creating effective strategies for requirements development and risk management.
- Elicit meta-requirements
- Brainstorm risks and tactics
- Identify risk indicators and root causes
- Customize requirements development and specification strategy
- Customize, carry out, and monitor requirements risk management strategy
EXERCISE: Teams brainstorm risks and tactics for a case study and then share results with the entire group.
Section XI. Safety Tactics 7: Preparing for Requirements Risk Management
Some tactics (e.g. acquiring tools) involve the creation, outside a production project, of a foundation that enables other safety tactics (e.g. identify imprecise information) to be more effective during development. This section describes these foundational tactics.
- Formulate baseline requirements process(es)
- Systematize change management and requirements defect and failure tracking
- Provide tools supporting safer requirements
- Develop requirements defect and root cause profiles
- Conduct requirements retrospectives
Section XII. Safety Tactics 8: Compensating for Requirements-based Problems
Because misunderstanding will occur and mistakes will be made, some design, implementation, and test work will need to be redone. Sometimes your worst fears will not be realized and your strategy will need adjusting.
- Estimate and track requirements-based rework
- Adjust for surprises, both good and bad
EXERCISE: Teams walk through the tactics usage process
- Who should attend
This workshop will be valuable to all those concerned with controlling systems development risk.
- Project sponsors
- System users
- Development directors
- Project managers and leads
- Requirements managers, leads and analysts
- System architects
- Functional designers
- Verification and test leads
- Quality assurance staff
- Process improvement leads
A minimum of one year of requirements development experience is recommended.