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How to Write Great Requirements

One of the most important parts of any software development project is creating detailed, accurate requirements. Without a clear understanding of what needs to be built, it’s impossible to create a high-quality end product. Unfortunately, writing good requirements is often easier said than done. The primary reason that people write poor requirements is that they have had no training or experience in writing good requirements. If you or your staff have problems with writing good requirements, you may benefit from guidance on how to write good requirements. By taking the time to learn how to write better requirements, you can improve the overall quality of your software development projects – and save yourself a lot of headaches down the road.

How to Write Great Requirements

Table of Contents

What is Requirements Specification?

Requirements specification is a process in which requirements are defined, documented, and analyzed. It’s an important part of software development because it ensures that all stakeholders agree on the functionality of the software before development begins. By doing this, reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings and reworks later on.

Requirement specification, also known as documentation, is a process of jotting down or writing all the system and user requirements in the form of a document. These requirements must be clear, complete, comprehensive, and consistent.

Why is it important to write good requirements?

There are many benefits of having good requirements specifications. Some of them are listed below:

  • Helps to ensure that all stakeholders have a common understanding of the system that is to be developed. This avoids any misunderstanding during later stages of development.
  • Serves as a reference point for all stakeholders during the development process.
  • Helps to identify any gaps in the requirements at an early stage.
  • Reduces the overall cost and time of development as it avoids rework due to changes in requirements.

What do we achieve by writing great requirements?

There are many things great requirements help in achieving. Some of them are listed below:

  • Great requirements help to ensure that the system being developed meets the needs of the users.
  • They serve as a basis for testing the system to ensure that it works as expected.
  • They help reduce the overall cost and time of development by avoiding rework due to changes in requirements.
  • Great requirements help to make the development process more efficient and effective.

Challenges When Writing Requirements

There are various challenges people face when writing requirements.

Poor Paperwork – In some organizations, documentation of processes is either nonexistent or not up to par. In this case, collecting requirements becomes a two-step process: first reverse engineering the existing process, and then identifying areas needing improvement and optimization. To confirm that requirements are fleshed out and accurate, it’s key to identify key stakeholders and subject matter experts, engaging with them directly. Drawing business process maps and visualizing workflows are two excellent ways to do so. This aids in the elimination of incorrect assumptions while also providing a complete picture. Drawing process maps and displaying processes are two useful approaches for this purpose.

Contradicting Requirements – When stakeholders have different priorities for their business goals, this leads to requirements that conflict with each other. In cases such as these, the responsibility of a business analyst is to document all requirements in detail, identify which requests oppose each other, and allow stakeholders the opportunity to decide what takes priority.

You can’t make decisions without hearing stakeholders’ input, and as a business analyst, you may have some ideas about what should be prioritized. It’s still crucial to hear the perspective of stakeholders. Setting up a poll might be one of the methods to obtain clarity on what matters most to the majority of stakeholders.

Unavailability of User Input – A few reasons may contribute to the unavailability of end users, and each requires its own resolution. For instance, sometimes end users are so preoccupied with their daily work that they’re unwilling to partake in requirements-gathering activities.

In such cases, the best a business analyst can do is to limit the number and length of engagements. Prior to the meeting, doing as much research as possible will help to make the discussion more organized and informative. It’s almost like turning requirements gathering into requirements validation sessions. defining focus groups and identifying the most suitable end-users for each group

Focusing on Interface Instead of Experience – Many stakeholders and end-users have a clear vision of how the new solution should appear, but they don’t know what it should accomplish. Any system’s user interface is crucial, but it shouldn’t define or interfere with the functionality.

Business analysts should always remember to keep design and functional requirements separate in their documentation. By using more general tools such as diagrams, user stories, or low-fi prototypes rather than design drafts, they can maintain focus on the functional aspects of requirement gathering.

Stakeholder Inputs – When stakeholders or end-users try to tell designers how the system should work instead of what the system should do, it can lead to suboptimal designs. To head this off, validate each potential ‘false requirement’ by asking ‘why?’ until you arrive at the real problem that needs solving.

Communication Issues – Among the issues that can lead to miscommunication between a business analyst and other parties are language barriers, wrong assumptions, insufficiently explained vocabulary, and overuse of technical terms.

The ideal approach to avoid this problem is to interact frequently and develop two-way conversations. Document the needs that you’ve discovered and submit them for peer review and criticism to a variety of subject matter specialists, create a glossary of jargon, and double-check premises.

Rules For The Set Of Correct Requirements

There are certain rules that the requirements must adhere to in order to be called “Correct”.

  • Complete – The requirements document should include enough information for your development team and testers to complete the product and ensure that it fulfills the user’s requirements without bugs.
  • Consistency – Maintain a consistent level of detail. For example, for user requirements, an end-user should be the subject of every sentence. Similarly, for system requirements, a system should be the subject of every sentence.
  • Modifiability – Requirements can change throughout the project lifecycle. The requirements log must be stored and analysis of the impact of changes made thereto on other requirements and project elements should be possible.
  • Prioritization – The requirements must be classified from the viewpoint of importance. Not all the characteristics desired for a system are equally important. For that, it would be helpful to establish a rule to define requirement priorities at the organizational level and adapt it to each project. And work with the users so that they can prioritize the requirements.

20 Tips To Write Better Requirements

Every organization has a different method of working, hence, a different set of requirements. Therefore, the process of requirements management can vary too. But one thing that remains consistent is the fundamentals of writing requirements. Below are 20 tips to write better requirements.

  1. One At A Time – Each requirement should be treated as a discrete test case. Conjunctions such as and, or, and so on should not be used because they might lead to missing out on requirements. This is particularly crucial since terms like these may cause software developers and testers to overlook requirements. Splitting complicated needs into smaller parts till each one can be tested separately is one way to prevent this from happening.

  1. Talk “What” Not “How” – The focus should be on what the system will do, not how it does it. Additionally, avoid delving too deeply into design topics such as field names, programming language objects, and software objects. If you find yourself discussing these topics in the Requirements Specification Document, take a step back – this likely means you’re getting too specific.

  1. Verifiable – Another thing to keep in mind when organizing requirements is that they should always be testable. This means it needs to be possible to verify the system meets the requirement in question. This also links to our next point – traceability. If a requirement is full of vague terms, then it becomes harder to analyze and verify if the system actually meets these standards Performance-wise. Therefore, as much as possible, aim for clarity and precision in your language so that Requirements gathering isn’t an ambiguous process.

  1. Traceability – Traceability in project management refers to ensuring that requirements are linked to other components in the project. This allows project managers, developers, and stakeholders to keep track of a requirement’s entire lifecycle from beginning to end in all directions as well as with other parts of the system. If you manage traceability properly, you can avoid code that does not correspond to any requirement (‘stray’ code), and ensure that every test case covers at least one requirement. You can make requirements traceable by labeling them with a unique identifier and providing information about their source in a central repository accessible to all team members.

  1. Feasible – Ensure that the project budget and timeline are feasible, along with available resources. If these conditions can support the requirement, then it is possible to move ahead with the plan.

  1. Consistency – Maintain a consistent level of detail. For example, for user requirements, an end-user should be the subject of every sentence. Similarly, for system requirements, a system should be the subject of every sentence.

  1. Exceptions – A requirement should not have an escape clause. For example, “The system shall determine the number of login attempts, except when the user has clearly entered an incorrect username”.

  1. Active Voice – Always write in an active voice, making sure one of the actors is the subject of every sentence.

  1. Say no to “let-out” clauses – Try to stay away from let-out phrases such as but, except, and only if necessary.

  1. No Abbreviations – Every requirement should be a full sentence without any acronyms or jargon.

  1. Subject & Predicate – For every requirement, there must be a subject (user/system) and a predicate (intended result, action, or condition). 

  1. Clarity – Avoid ambiguity caused by the use of acronyms like, etc, approx. and the like.

  1. Use the Right Terms – Unknown terms like user-friendly, versatile, and robust can create difficulties when trying to define test cases. These words often carry different meanings for different people.

  1. Speculations can cause Damage – Do not guess; do not make lists of features that are out of the question. Saying you want a system to handle all unexpected failures is pure fantasy since no system will ever be 100 percent what you desire it to be. Avoid duplication and contradictory statements.

  1. Avoid Options – Do not offer ideas or options. You can spot these in any statement that includes the phrases may, might, could, or ought.

  1. Organized Paperwork does Wonders – Keep requirements organized in one place to improve the readability of your document and avoid wasting time cross-referencing multiple sources.

  1. Talk With What We Have – Do not refer to a yet-to-be-defined requirement. Your goal is to make the document as pleasant to read as possible.

  1. What should be used And Where? – “Shall“ should be used where requirements are being stated, “Will” should be used to represent statements of facts; & “Should” to represent a goal to be achieved.

  1. Correct – Make sure every sentence is complete and grammatically correct with a proper subject, verb, and predicate.

  1. Focus – Establish focus by eliminating rambling, overlong phrases, and references to out-of-date papers.

Visure Requirements ALM Platform

Visure Requirements ALM Platform is one of the most trusted application lifecycle management platforms that specialize in requirements management for organizations of all sizes across the globe. The major partners of Visure include business-critical and safety-critical companies. The company integrates through the whole Application Lifecycle Management processes including risk management, issue and defect tracking, traceability management, change management, and various other areas like quality analysis, requirements versioning, and powerful reporting.

If you’re looking for a requirements management tool that will help you with both functional and non-functional requirements, check out Visure Requirements. With this platform, you can easily create, manage and track all your project’s requirements in one place.

Conclusion

In order to produce great software, it is important to have a well-written requirements specification. This document outlines the needs of the customer and what the system must do in order to meet their expectations. However, writing good requirements can be challenging. There are many standards and guidelines that must be followed, and there are many different ways to write them depending on the language and tools you use. Visure Requirements ALM Platform offers a course that teaches you how to write effective requirements specifications using best practices and industry standards. The course covers all essential components of a requirements document, from structure to formatting, as well as how to use various languages for writing requirements. It also highlights the characteristics of great requirements so that you can create documents your team will love working with. If you want to learn more about writing effective requirements, try the Requirements Specification Course by Visure Requirements ALM Platform today!

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