BY digite | September 29, 2009

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The topic of Requirements and Change Management continues to spark enthusiastic debate and discussion amongst the software community. And for obvious reasons!

I was talking to an industry analyst recently – and he himself drew attention to the fact that software requirements are so hard to do, unlike a bridge or a tunnel or building – where requirements were so much easier to define. Absolutely!

Yet software teams and organizations continue to pay scant attention to this critical discipline that is responsible for the failure of such a high percentage of software projects. A recent study and analysis done by IAG Consulting (https://www.cioinsight.com/c/a/Project-Management/10-Truths-About-Project-Planning-504226) had these (not so?) surprising findings:

  • Companies with poor business analysis were 3 times more likely to see their projects fail!
  • Bad project requirements can result in up to a 60% hike in project costs, and
  • For a $3m project with poor requirements, companies would pay an average of $5.87m!

The study concluded that projects and organizations where Business and IT worked collaboratively on requirements were much less likely to see cost and time overruns than those that did not.

The Software Engineering Institute (SEI) has determined that projects that spend up to 60% of the overall effort in Planning, Requirements Analysis and Design have dramatically lower cost and schedule overruns compared to projects that spent that level of effort in Coding and Testing.

SEI Repeatable Process Results

This should be fairly obvious – after all, if you don’t know what you have to build, how can you build it well? Yet, software professionals, teams and entire organizations continue to suffer from this lack of focus on up-front requirements definition and ongoing requirements management. There is also no doubt that requirements will change – for a variety of reasons. Managing the changes to the requirements on a continuous basis and keeping an eye on the impact of these changes on project budget and contract dollars is what project managers must do all the time.

While the importance of granular requirements management, project managers and business analysts have been hampered by lack of technology support to enable that. Traditional requirements management tools have been too complex, too expensive and too stand-alone to be effectively used. Thankfully, however, a new generation of ALM tools that provides lightweight, web-based, fully-integrated functionality have changed that landscape. One of the most important capabilities these tools provide is collaboration.

Collaboration between business and IT, between customer and service provider, between marketing and engineering is key to ensuring that all stakeholders on a project stay in agreement on precisely what requirements need to be delivered by when. At the same time, it helps both sides objectively decide when requirements change, why they changed, whether they are justified and if they are budgeted for.

The importance of collaborative and ongoing requirements and change management cannot be over-emphasized. After all, in the definition by a quality guru, Phil Crosby,

Quality = Conformance to Requirements

I would love to hear from you how you are tackling this significant challenge – whether in-house or in an outsourced situation.

Mahesh Singh
Vice President – Product

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