The basis of this paper is to present the business case for the introduction of effective requirements management to support major projects and the development of complex systems. There is strong evidence to support the case that reducing requirement errors and omission may be the single most effective action that project managers and developers of complex systems can take to improve project outcomes and assist in the ultimate goal of delivering quality systems, on-time and within budget. This session highlights some of the empirical evidence that I have collected over the last 16- years and demonstrates that an investment in more effect requirements management, particularly at the start of a project and throughout the development lifecycle, will produce substantial and quantifiable rewards. It is worth pointing out that the main subject of this paper is not static but continues to evolve through continuing discussions with existing and new customers, consultants and published research data from the Standish Group, IDC and Gartner. Where possible I have quantified the business benefits of formal requirements management in terms cost and time savings. Due to the commercial sensitivities associated with cost benefit and views on competitive advantage, the quantification of the savings was derived through an iterative process, basing the final analysis on cost savings, where the estimates presented to the participating companies, eventually promoted the least resistance. In addition to the quantified analysis of cost savings, I also discuss some recognised and tangible business benefits of requirements management in areas that cannot be so easily quantified, such as information version management, risk analysis and capture of intellectual property. It also explores how an active move away from “islands of information” to a centralised requirements repository promotes significant improvements in communications and cohesion across multiple project disciplines.
What is requirements management?
Requirements management is all about promoting effective communications throughout a project lifecycle across a multi-disciplinary team. It’s about connecting together “islands of information” typically created in MS Word, MS Excel, emails, meeting notes and presentations, and making the information centrally available, to provide a foundation for “informed decisions”. The traceability established and maintained between requirements is used to manage expectations and enable
reporting in real time, on the fulfilment of company and stakeholder interests, in terms of compliance, completeness, coverage and consistency.
What Business Benefits to expect with a requirement management tool
The quantification of “business benefit” was made in the context of many factors including time savings, cost savings, productivity improvements and efficiency in execution, completeness, quality improvements and ultimately, customer satisfaction. The business benefits identified then fell into two camps, the first being the areas that could be legitimately quantified through customer feedback and the second being areas where business benefit could be easily understood, but very difficult to quantify the value. So the primary subject headings where customers were able to quantify cost and time savings are:
- Requirements re-use between projects – enabling structured access and re-use of product requirements and their associated verification criteria, achieving significant productivity improvements at the start of new projects.
- Requirements traceability – to identify in real time what is “touched” by any proposed requirement change in one document and how it impacts on requirements across other associated project documents.
- Automated production of traceability matrices – to ensure compliance with stakeholder requirements, standards and regulatory demands, it is vital that traceability matrices can quickly be produced in real time, to track fulfilment and omission.
- Test and verification planning – ensuring that every requirement is measureable and testable, directly linking to test or verification criteria, supporting automatic report production to improve quality and save time.
- Ad-hoc production of management metrics on requirements fulfilment – to automatically produce up-to-date and consistent information on project progress and metrics, which when produced manually consumes engineering time and effort.
- Automated production of contract deliverable documents – to avoid consuming valuable engineering resource for the production of specification documents, representing the “as built” system rather than the “as specified” system. The use of a centralised requirements repository allows fully formatted documents to be automatically produced.
Other subject areas where customers accepted that tangible business benefits are gained, but found difficulty in applying a quantified value are as follows:
- Real time access to centralised project information – capturing one instance and version of project information in one integrated repository, and providing access to everyone that needs it, promotes significant productivity and quality improvements. It also supports “informed” project decisions to be made based on the available data.
- Information version management – who changed what and when, while recording volatility metrics. Working on out of date information can consume unnecessary time and effort which can so easily be avoided by maintaining one instance and one version of the truth in a central repository.
- Risk management – risks can be motivated by requirements from any part of the project. Linking risks and risk mitigation information should be an integral part of the project management process, which can be centralised and visible to all.
- Process driven requirements engineering – establishing re-usable processes for managing requirements provides the opportunity measured improvement and refinement between projects.
- Capturing and maintaining your precious Intellectual Property (IP) – experts leave organisations all the time and the IP that is carried in their heads is often not captured by the organisation that paid for it. Capturing and maintaining IP is vital to the continued success of all organisations, so it must be captured before it walks.
The white paper explores each of these headings in greater depth, providing quantified analysis where agreement and consensus exists and further explanation on the subject headings, where customers could not quantify the business benefit associated with requirements capture and management. Although customers could not quantify the business benefits, there was no issue on accepting that real benefits were realised.