October 27, 2016
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Wrestling with requirements

  • October 1, 1999
  • By Linda G. Hayes
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In the past, this typically meant capturing requirements into spreadsheets where they could be tied to test cases. But this approach quickly becomes unwieldy for a project of any significant size.

If software projects are really and truly defined and managed according to their requirements, it would cure a host of ills.

Luckily, there's a bumper crop of new requirements management tools available that make implementing a test repository more manageable. Caliber-RM from Technology Builders Inc., in Atlanta; DOORS from Quality Systems & Software Inc., in Mount Arlington, N.J.; and Requisite Pro from Rational Software Corp., in Lexington, Mass., are all geared toward trying to wrestle requirements into submission. Most provide a tree structure that allows high-level requirements to be successively broken down into subcategories and instances, then tied to test cases for traceability. These techniques help organize requirements so they can be clarified, tracked, and measured to ensure that the application will meet customers' needs.

A company that develops peripherals and the supporting software bought Caliber-RM to guide it through a large-scale release of new software. The project was so important that the test team had the luxury of getting organized early in the life cycle. They began to capture their requirements during development--after the design phase, but before testing. The company amassed a staggering number of requirements with a minimum of effort.

When the test team presented their work-in-progress to the cross-functional project team, the marketing people gasped. "There is no way we can possibly meet all these requirements and still make our schedule!" they exclaimed. "We'll have to take some of these out." And the developers revolted. "We've already started coding those," they complained. "We can't pull them out now."

Requirements were quantified, and suddenly marketing wanted fewer requirements and developers wanted more. What is happening here?

Hopefully, nothing short of a revolution. If projects are really and truly defined and managed according to their requirements, it would cure a host of ills. Runaway projects, burnt-out developers, frustrated testers, dissatisfied customers--all of these stem from undefined requirements.

You can capture requirements into a spreadsheet, but it takes a powerful product to actually manage them. Will these products, or their competitors and successors make a difference? We can only hope. //

Linda Hayes is CEO of WorkSoft Inc. She was one of the founders of AutoTester. She can be reached at linda@worksoft.com.

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