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Overview

It is widely recognized that incorrect requirements account for up to 60 percent of errors in software products, and yet the majority of software development organizations do not have a formal requirements process. Many organizations appear willing to spend huge amounts on fixing and altering poorly specified software, but seem unwilling to invest a much smaller amount to get the requirements right in the first place.

Mastering the Requirements Process, Second Edition, sets out an industry-proven process for gathering and verifying requirements with an eye toward today's agile development environments. In this total update of the bestselling guide, the authors show how to discover precisely what the customer wants and needs while doing the minimum requirements work according to the project's level of agility.

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Editorial Reviews

Robert L. Glass
Requirements are a make or break phase of the software development process. If the requirements are carefully chosen to represent what the customer wants, needs, and expects, then the project has a good chance of success. If not, the project may very well be doomed.

That said, it is easy to say that this book is about an important topic.
But is it a good book about that important topic?

My vote is "yes." This is a nicely crafted, well-thought-through, complete, up-to-date view of the task of creating a requirements specification for a software project.

Nicely crafted? It is well written, readable, never pedantic. Well-thought-through? The authors base the book on seminars they have given and honed over the years. Complete and up-to-date? Not only are the basic topics covered, but the authors also mention such advanced topics as requirements reuse, requirements patterns, traceability, and an event + use case-driven approach.

The book is written for the requirements novice. There are plenty of detail-level discussions of steps and approaches, templates for framing the results, and an elaborated case study (how refreshing it is to see a case study based on de-icing roadways, rather than one of the traditional, overused topics like video rental or cruise control!) But the book can also be useful to the patient requirements expert - there is more verbiage than the expert will want, but by scanning carefully the essence of the book can be easily distilled out. Importantly, the essence of the book is conceptual rather than formula/methodology-driven - the authors say the book is intended "not as a set of canonical rules that must be obeyed, but as a reliable companion to intelligent work."

Given all of that, I found some things that were mildly annoying: Some of the terminology the authors use is cutesy, although often it is appropriate, but (a) "blastoff: as the term for project start? (The projects I've been involved with rarely start with a "blast"!); (b) "requirements leakage" for requirements that erroneously get accepted into a project? (I would have thought that things leak out of a project, not in!) The authors claim that their book can be used not just for customized software development projects, but also for software maintenance and even for projects that aggregate pre-built packages. But later they say that the requirements process should never consider the technology of the solution (all well and good for customization, but impossible for the latter two categories). The authors take the (debatable) position that "object-orientation has become the standard way of developing systems," but then mix the two terms "use cases" and "event-driven" as if they were the same, both related to the OO approaches. In my view, event-driven approaches are rather different from object-oriented ones (for example, Visual Basic allows the programmer to build an event-driven system, but the result may or may not (likely not!) be object-oriented). The authors speak of a "post-mortem review" (an excellent idea), but it is not until page 271 (near the end of the book) that it becomes clear that "post-mortem" means "after the requirements phase," not "after the project is complete." (Either could be correct, but the authors should make it clear which they mean when they first bring up the topic 250 pages earlier). There is an appropriate and thorough discussion of the topic of "fit," by which the authors mean that requirements should be expressed in a measurable way. But the authors fail to acknowledge that some things simply don't lend themselves to measurement, with the result that much mischief is done by those who attempt to measure the unmeasurable (e.g., the terrible tendency to state "the software product shall be modular" in terms of the length of program segments - "modules shall contain no more than 50 lines of code").

Things I particularly like about the book are Requirements representation is treated as a pragmatic topic, where requirements are to be readable by both application customers and software designers. There is none of the formal specification discussion that computer scientists love to advocate but that seldom fits the needs of real-world requirements. There is also a nice discussion of software tools, appropriately mentioning that they are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. (Interestingly, there is no mention of the now-in-disrepute term "CASE"!) The discussion of the "quality gateway," which covers the process of making a final decision as to which requirements to include in the final specification, is both important and nice. There are very well-done discussions of such topics as "requirements creep," "gold plating," "traceability," and "viability." (I was reminded of the wry comment by Jerry Weinberg at a conference many years ago that software may be the only discipline where the answer to the early-project question of feasibility is always "yes"!) The discussions of the avant-garde requirements topics like requirements reuse and requirements patterns are very nice. I was less pleased with the discussion of traceability - what the book contains is excellent material, but it fails to go far enough to note that tracing requirements into design and code, although extremely desirable, is so far an out-of-reach topic (due to the "explosion" of business requirements into design requirements as the life cycle proceeds, an explosion estimated by some to be measured in orders of magnitude).

There should be at least one book on requirements in the library of every enterprise, even every software professional. You could do a lot worse than choosing this one.

Booknews
She specializes in systems analysis and requirements modeling and specifications; he advises companies on requirements. They set out an industry-tested and adaptable template for gathering and verifying requirements for software products, errors in which they estimate account for up to 60% of the failures. The provide techniques and insights for discovering precisely what the customer wants and needs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201360462
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 5/4/2000
  • Series: ACM Press Series
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 9.42 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author


Suzanne Robertson is a leading figure in the world of systems analysis and requirements modeling. She is the roving ambassador for the British Computer Society's Reuse Group and is on organizing committees for the International Conference on Software Reuse and Object Technology.

Suzanne is a principal of the Atlantic Systems Guild, an international think-tank producing numerous books and seminars that are among the most successful in the software industry.

James Robertson brings the experience of working and consulting on requirements with several hundred companies to this book. When his busy seminar schedule permits, James advises companies on how to adapt to a world where requirements are paramount.

James is a principal of the Atlantic Systems Guild, an international think-tank producing numerous books and seminars that are among the most successful in the software industry.

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Read an Excerpt

In the six years since we published the first edition of this book, the world's knowledge of requirements has grown, and more people have a job called "business analyst," "requirements engineer," or something similar. The Volere Requirements Specification Template has been downloaded countless times. The Volere Requirements Process is in use by thousands of people who are engaged in the activity of successful requirements gathering. They, in turn, have given us feedback over the years about what they needed to know, and what they are doing when gathering requirements.

This book is a reflection of the feedback we have received, and of the way people have made use of the first edition.

The requirements activity has moved away from wanting to be seen as an engineering discipline, to the realization that it is a sociotechnical activity. Requirements analysts now see their role first as one of communication, and second as a technician adding rigor and precision to the results of the human communication.

As a result, we have updated and expanded the project sociology analysis section of the book. In a similar vein, we have added the appropriate rigor to the technicalities of recording and measuring the requirements.

Perhaps the greatest change to come along since the first edition has been the arrival of agile methods, accompanied by some wonderful technological advances. Agile methods have influenced the way people develop software, with the result being that greater emphasis is placed on close customer relationships, and less emphasis is placed on documentation. We heartily applaud this advance. However, we have also seen too many people, who, in the name of agility, rush to a solution without first understanding the real business problem to be solved.

This, then, is the role of requirements in the agile world: to ensure that we hear not only one customer's voice, but also the voices of the other stakeholders—those with some value to add to the requirements for the product. Agile requirements analysts ensure that the work is considered, not just the product, and that the nonfunctional requirements are studied, not left to the whim of the programmer.

Agile methods have brought with them a healthy disdain for documentation. We agree with this view. Throughout this second edition we urge you to consider the benefit before committing anything to writing. But while we suggest sometimes you can develop software successfully without formally written requirements, we never suggest you can do it without understanding the requirements.

The emphasis on iterative development means that the requirements "phase" is no longer completed before building begins. The drive toward short, sharp release cycles means requirements analysts get feedback on their requirements efforts more quickly. Stakeholders receive positive reinforcement when they see the time they invest in requirements paid back with progressive versions of working software that does what they expect, and what they need.

Technological advances have changed requirements gathering. Blogs and wikis mean that requirements analysts can gather their requirements informally and iteratively using the convenience of networking with their stakeholders. Desktop videoconferencing and instant messaging mean closer, quicker communication with stakeholders, which is, of course, necessary for good requirements gathering.

The gap between what we wrote in 1999 and what we found ourselves doing when gathering requirements gradually grew wider, until we knew it was time to update our book. The volume that you hold in your hands is the result of the last few years of our work and teaching. We trust you find it interesting, enlightening, and useful.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Contents
Acknowledgments page
Foreword

1 What Are Requirements?
Requirements and systems analysis - how they fit together. We introduce the specification template and the requirements shell, and tell you where this book will take you.

2 The Requirements Process
An overview of the Volere process. We take you through the process from the blastoff - where the project is prepared - to the delivery of the requirements specification.

3 Project Blastoff
Getting the project underway - what you need to get your requirements project off to a successful and effective start.

4 Event-driven Use Cases
How to determine suitable partitions for the product - using business events as the starting point - and how to determine the best product to build.

5 Trawling for Requirements
How to gather the requirements. We look at techniques for discovering, eliciting and inventing requirements.

6 Functional Requirements
Functional requirements are things the products must do. Here we look at discovering and specifying the product's functionality.

7 Non-functional Requirements
Non-functional requirements are the properties that the product must have. Here we describe how to discover and specify them.

8 Writing the Specification
How to set all this down in a requirements specification.

9 Fit Criteria
To overcome ambiguity, we introduce measurements for requirements. This makes the requirements testable so that you can know that the implementation matches the requirement.

10 Quality Gateway
A device for preventing rogue requirements from becoming part of the specification.11 Prototyping and Scenarios How to bring the requirements to life and discover forgotten and undreamed of requirements.

12 Reusing Requirements
Products are rarely completely unique. We show you how to take advantage of requirements that have already been written.

13 Taking Stock of the Specification
A complete review of what you have written, together with the opportunity to remeasure and reevaluate the requirements.

14 Whither Requirements?
What happens after the requirements are written? We look at requirements tools, publishing the specification, traceability, change and managing the requirements.

Appendix A Volere Requirements Process Model
A complete model of the requirements process.

Appendix B Volere Requirements Specification Template
A template for writing a requirements specification which can become the foundation of your requirements documents.

Glossary

Bibliography

Index

Trademark Notice
Adobe Photoshop is a registered trademark of Adobe Systems Incorporated.
Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word are trademarks of Microsoft Coporation.
UNIX is a registered trademark, licensed through X/Open Company Ltd.
(collaboration of Novell, HP & SCO).

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Preface

In the six years since we published the first edition of this book, the world's knowledge of requirements has grown, and more people have a job called "business analyst," "requirements engineer," or something similar. The Volere Requirements Specification Template has been downloaded countless times. The Volere Requirements Process is in use by thousands of people who are engaged in the activity of successful requirements gathering. They, in turn, have given us feedback over the years about what they needed to know, and what they are doing when gathering requirements.

This book is a reflection of the feedback we have received, and of the way people have made use of the first edition.

The requirements activity has moved away from wanting to be seen as an engineering discipline, to the realization that it is a sociotechnical activity. Requirements analysts now see their role first as one of communication, and second as a technician adding rigor and precision to the results of the human communication.

As a result, we have updated and expanded the project sociology analysis section of the book. In a similar vein, we have added the appropriate rigor to the technicalities of recording and measuring the requirements.

Perhaps the greatest change to come along since the first edition has been the arrival of agile methods, accompanied by some wonderful technological advances. Agile methods have influenced the way people develop software, with the result being that greater emphasis is placed on close customer relationships, and less emphasis is placed on documentation. We heartily applaud this advance. However, we have also seen too many people, who, in the name of agility, rush to a solution without first understanding the real business problem to be solved.

This, then, is the role of requirements in the agile world: to ensure that we hear not only one customer's voice, but also the voices of the other stakeholders—those with some value to add to the requirements for the product. Agile requirements analysts ensure that the work is considered, not just the product, and that the nonfunctional requirements are studied, not left to the whim of the programmer.

Agile methods have brought with them a healthy disdain for documentation. We agree with this view. Throughout this second edition we urge you to consider the benefit before committing anything to writing. But while we suggest sometimes you can develop software successfully without formally written requirements, we never suggest you can do it without understanding the requirements.

The emphasis on iterative development means that the requirements "phase" is no longer completed before building begins. The drive toward short, sharp release cycles means requirements analysts get feedback on their requirements efforts more quickly. Stakeholders receive positive reinforcement when they see the time they invest in requirements paid back with progressive versions of working software that does what they expect, and what they need.

Technological advances have changed requirements gathering. Blogs and wikis mean that requirements analysts can gather their requirements informally and iteratively using the convenience of networking with their stakeholders. Desktop videoconferencing and instant messaging mean closer, quicker communication with stakeholders, which is, of course, necessary for good requirements gathering.

The gap between what we wrote in 1999 and what we found ourselves doing when gathering requirements gradually grew wider, until we knew it was time to update our book. The volume that you hold in your hands is the result of the last few years of our work and teaching. We trust you find it interesting, enlightening, and useful.

Read More Show Less

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2006

    a sociological text

    [A review of the SECOND EDITION, 2006.] The main context of this book is for software projects. If you are reading these words, you probably hail from that environment. But the authors do explain that the processes they describe are applicable to almost any project. This is not a software book, per se. Not a line of code appears here, as far as I can tell. Most programmers know that design is important, and should usually precede any coding. The book's contribution is about that design and its prelude. Namely the gathering and determination of what the requirements might be. The authors point out that this makes the book in no small part a sociological text. About how to get a group of people together, and to solicit their contributions and perceptions into the project's requirements. Managing the dynamics of this is the purview of sociology [and psychology]. Without a solid performance here, subsequent design and coding may rest on quicksand. The book does acknowledge that recent technological innovations like blogs and wikis can lead to quicker feedback. And hence contribute to a more interactive and iterative scenario of updating requirements as the project proceeds. All in the Agile spirit that many teams are now using. Just remember that the blogs and wikis are not a substitute for physically getting the team together. Much of the dynamics and feedback in the processes given by the book do really require that physical presence, to enhance the members' contributions.

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