Mastering the Requirements Process: Getting Requirements Right

Suzanne Robertson / James Robertson  
Total pages
August 2012
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Getting the requirements right is crucial if we are to build systems that best meet our needs. We know, beyond doubt, that the right requirements produce an end result that is as innovative and beneficial as it can be, and that system development is both effective and efficient.

Mastering the Requirements Process: Getting Requirements Right sets out an industry-proven process for gathering and verifying requirements, regardless of whether you work in a traditional or agile development environment. In this sweeping update of the bestselling guide, the authors show how to discover precisely what the customer wants and needs, in the most efficient manner possible.

Features include

  • The Volere requirements process for discovering requirements, for use with both traditional and iterative environments
  • A specification template that can be used as the basis for your own requirements specifications
  • Formality guides that help you funnel your efforts into only the requirements work needed for your particular development environment and project
  • How to make requirements testable using fit criteria
  • Checklists to help identify stakeholders, users, non-functional requirements, and more
  • Methods for reusing requirements and requirements patterns

New to this Edition

• Uncovering the true business problem
• Additional elicitation techniques
• When to use the techniques
• 'Thinking above the Line'

• Detailed connection of the deliverables through the development cycle
• Connecting stakeholders through requirements
• Connecting to agile development
• How to incorporate innovation when discovering requirements

Table of Contents

Preface to the Third Edition xxi

Foreword to the First Edition xxiii

Acknowledgments xxv


Chapter 1: Some Fundamental Truths 1

in which we consider the essential contribution of requirements

Truth 1 1

Truth 2 2

Truth 3 3

Truth 4 4

Truth 5 5

Truth 6 6

Truth 7 7

Truth 8 7

Truth 9 8

Truth 10 8

Truth 11 9

What Are These Requirements Anyway? 9

The Volere Requirements Process 11


Chapter 2: The Requirements Process 13

in which we present a process for discovering requirements and discuss how you might use it

The Requirements Process in Context 14

A Case Study 15

Project Blastoff 15

Trawling for Requirements 17

Quick and Dirty Modeling 19

Scenarios 20

Writing the Requirements 20

Quality Gateway 22

Reusing Requirements 23

Reviewing the Requirements 23

Iterative and Incremental Processes 24

Requirements Retrospective 25

Evolution of Requirements 26

The Template 27

The Snow Card 29

Your Own Requirements Process 31

Formality Guide 32

The Rest of This Book 33


Chapter 3: Scoping the Business Problem 35

in which we establish a definition of the business area to be changed, thereby ensuring that the project team has a clear vision of what their project is meant to achieve

Project Blastoff 35

Formality Guide 38

Setting the Scope 38

IceBreaker 41

Scope, Stakeholders, and Goals 43

Stakeholders 44

Other Stakeholders 50

Finding the Stakeholders 54

Goals: What Do You Want to Achieve? 54

Constraints 59

Naming Conventions and Definitions 60

How Much Is This Going to Cost? 61

Risks 62

To Go or Not to Go 63

Blastoff Meetings 64

Summary 65


Chapter 4: Business Use Cases 67

in which we discuss a fail-safe way of partitioning the work and so smooth the way for your requirements investigation

Understanding the Work 67

Formality Guide 69

Use Cases and Their Scope 69

The Scope of the Work 70

Business Events 73

Why Business Events and Business Use Cases Are a Good Idea 75

Finding the Business Events 78

Business Use Cases 80

Business Use Cases and Product Use Cases 82

Summary 85


Chapter 5: Investigating the Work 87

in which we come to an understanding of what the business is doing, and start to think about what it might like to do

Trawling the Business 87

Formality Guide 89

Trawl for Knowledge 89

The Business Analyst 91

Trawling and Business Use Cases 92

The Brown Cow Model 93

The Current Way of Doing Things (How-Now) 94

Apprenticing 98

Business Use Case Workshops 99

Interviewing the Stakeholders 102

Looking for Reusable Requirements 106

Quick and Dirty Process Modeling 107

Prototypes and Sketches 109

Mind Maps 116

The Murder Book 119

Video and Photographs 120

Wikis, Blogs, Discussion Forums 122

Document Archeology 123

Family Therapy 125

Choosing the Best Trawling Technique 125

Finally . . . 127


Chapter 6: Scenarios 129

in which we look at scenarios, and how the business analyst uses them to communicate with the stakeholders

Formality Guide 129

Scenarios 130

The Essence of the Business 135

Diagramming the Scenario 138

Alternatives 139

Exceptions 140

What if? Scenarios 142

Misuse Cases and Negative Scenarios 142

Scenario Template 143

Summary 145


Chapter 7: Understanding the Real Problem 147

in which we “think above the line” to find the true essence of the business, and so deliver the right product–one that solves the right problem

Formality Guide 149

The Brown Cow Model: Thinking Above the Line 149

Solving the Right Problem 156

Moving into the Future 157

How to Be Innovative 160

Systemic Thinking 162

Value 165

Personas 166

Challenging Constraints 169

Innovation Workshops 171

Brainstorming 173

Back to the Future 174


Chapter 8: Starting the Solution 177

in which we bring the essence of the business into the technological world of the implementation

Iterative Development 179

Essential Business 179

Determine the Extent of the Product 180

Consider the Users 181

Designing the User Experience 183

Innovation 184

Sketching the Interface 188

The Real Origin of the Business Event 189

Adjacent Systems and External Technology 190

Cost, Benefit, and Risks 194

Document Your Design Decisions 195

Product Use Case Scenarios 196

Putting It All Together 199


Chapter 9: Strategies for Today’s Business Analyst 203

in which we consider strategies for the business analyst to guide requirements discovery in today’s changing environments

Balancing Knowledge, Activities, and People 204

Common Project Requirements Profiles 204

How Much Knowledge Is Needed Before Each Breakout? 205

External Strategy 206

Iterative Strategy 210

Sequential Strategy 212

Your Own Strategy 215

Sharpening Your Requirements Skills 215

Summary 222


Chapter 10: Functional Requirements 223

in which we look at those requirements that cause the product to do something

Formality Guide 224

Functional Requirements 225

Uncovering the Functional Requirements 225

Level of Detail or Granularity 228

Description and Rationale 229

Data, Your Secret Weapon 231

Exceptions and Alternatives 233

Conditional Requirements 234

Avoiding Ambiguity 234

Technological Requirements 237

Grouping Requirements 237

Alternatives to Functional Requirements 238

Requirements for COTS 241

Summary 242


Chapter 11: Non-functional Requirements 245

in which we look at the requirements that specify how well your product does what it does

An Introduction to Non-functional Requirements 246

Formality Guide 246

Functional Versus Non-functional Requirements 247

Use Cases and Non-functional Requirements 248

The Non-functional Requirements Types 249

Look and Feel Requirements: Type 10 250

Usability and Humanity Requirements: Type 11 253

Performance Requirements: Type 12 257

Operational and Environmental Requirements: Type 13 259

Maintainability and Support Requirements: Type 14 261

Security Requirements: Type 15 262

Cultural Requirements: Type 16 266

Legal Requirements: Type 17 268

Finding the Non-functional Requirements 271

Blogging the Requirements 271

Don’t Write a Solution 276

Summary 277


Chapter 12: Fit Criteria and Rationale 279

in which we show how measuring requirements makes them unambiguous, understandable, communicable, and testable

Formality Guide 280

Why Does Fit Need a Criterion? 280

The Rationale for the Rationale 282

Deriving Fit Criteria 284

Scale of Measurement 285

Fit Criteria for Non-functional Requirements 286

Fit Criteria for Functional Requirements 295

Forms of Fit Criteria 296

Use Cases and Fit Criteria 299

Fit Criterion for Project Purpose 299

Fit Criteria for Solution Constraints 300

Summary 301


Chapter 13: The Quality Gateway 303

in which we prevent unsuitable requirements from becoming part of the specification

Formality Guide 304

Requirements Quality 305

Using the Quality Gateway 306

Within Scope? 307

Testing Completeness 311

Testing the Fit Criterion 312

Consistent Terminology 313

Viable within Constraints? 314

Requirement or Solution? 316

Requirement Value 316

Gold Plating 317

Requirements Creep 317

Implementing the Quality Gateway 319

Summary 321


Chapter 14: Requirements and Iterative Development 323

in which we look at how to discover and implement requirements in an iterative development environment

The Need for Iterative Development 323

An Iterative Requirements Process 324

Business Value Analysis and Prioritization 327

How to Write a Good User Story 329

Iterative Requirements Roles 333

Summary 335


Chapter 15: Reusing Requirements 337

in which we look for requirements that have already been written and explore ways to make use of them

What Is Reusing Requirements? 338

Sources of Reusable Requirements 341

Requirements Patterns 342

A Business Event Pattern 344

Forming Patterns by Abstracting 346

Domain Analysis 351

Summary 351


Chapter 16: Communicating the Requirements 353

in which we turn the requirements into communicable form

Formality Guide 353

Turning Potential Requirements into Written Requirements 354

Knowledge Versus Specification 354

The Volere Requirements Specification Template 357

Discovering Atomic Requirements 359

Attributes of Atomic Requirements 361

Assembling the Specification 365

Automated Requirements Tools 366

Functional Requirements 367

Non-functional Requirements 368

Project Issues 369

Summary 369


Chapter 17: Requirements Completeness 371

in which we decide whether our specification is complete, and set the priorities of the requirements

Formality Guide 372

Reviewing the Specification 373

Inspections 373

Find Missing Requirements 374

Have All Business Use Cases Been Discovered? 376

Prioritizing the Requirements 382

Conflicting Requirements 386

Ambiguous Specifications 388

Risk Assessment 388

Measure the Required Cost 391

Summary 391


Appendix A: Volere Requirements Specification Template 393

a guide for writing a rigorous and complete requirements specification

Contents 393

Use of This Template 394

Volere 394

Requirements Types 395

Testing Requirements 396

Atomic Requirements Shell 396

1. The Purpose of the Project 397

2. The Stakeholders 400

3. Mandated Constraints 407

4. Naming Conventions and Terminology 415

5. Relevant Facts and Assumptions 416

6. The Scope of the Work 420

7. Business Data Model and Data Dictionary 425

8. The Scope of the Product 429

9. Functional and Data Requirements 433

Non-functional Requirements 435

10. Look and Feel Requirements 435

11. Usability and Humanity Requirements 437

12. Performance Requirements 441

13. Operational and Environmental Requirements 447

14. Maintainability and Support Requirements 449

15. Security Requirements 451

16. Cultural Requirements 454

17. Legal Requirements 455

Project Issues 457

18. Open Issues 457

19. Off-the-Shelf Solutions 458

20. New Problems 460

21. Tasks 462

22. Migration to the New Product 463

23. Risks 465

24. Costs 467

25. User Documentation and Training 468

26. Waiting Room 470

27. Ideas for Solutions 471


Appendix B: Stakeholder Management Templates 473

Stakeholder Map 473

Stakeholder Template 475


Appendix C: Function Point Counting: A Simplified Introduction 479

in which we look at a way to accurately measure the size or functionality of the work area, with a view toward using the measurement to estimate the requirements effort

Measuring the Work 479

A Quick Primer on Counting Function Points 481

Counting Function Points for Business Use Cases 484

Counting the Stored Data 489

Adjust for What You Don’t Know 492

Now That I Have Counted Function Points, What’s Next? 492


Appendix D: Volere Requirements Knowledge Model 495

Definitions of Requirements Knowledge Classes and Associations 495


Glossary 511

Bibliography 517

Index 523


Suzanne Robertson and James Robertson have, over many years, helped hundreds of companies improve their requirements techniques and move into the fast lane of system development. Their courses and seminars on requirements, analysis, and design are widely praised for their innovative approach. The Robertsons are principals of the Atlantic Systems Guild, a well-known consultancy specializing in the human dimensions of complex system building. They are also the coauthors of Requirements-Led Project Management (Addison-Wesley, 2005).


James Robertson and Suzanne Robertson have, over many years, helped hundreds of companies improve their requirements techniques and move into the fast lane of system development. Their courses and seminars on requirements, analysis, and design are widely praised for their innovative approach. The Robertsons are principals of the Atlantic Systems Guild, a well-known consultancy specializing in the human dimensions of complex system building. They are also the coauthors of Requirements-Led Project Management (Addison-Wesley, 2005).