Project Management A Two-Way Requirements Verification Process during Design Phase

A Two-Way Requirements Verification Process during Design Phase

Introduction


Software bugs and defects, the primary reason for delay of many projects, can be caused by many factors. Some of the factors include misunderstanding of requirements, incorrect analysis of functional design and mismanaged scope creep. These conditions can happen even with the adoption of a proven methodology.


Several methodologies such as Rational Unified Process (RUP), Extreme Programming (XP) or any agile development do their best to mitigate the risk at each phase of the development but still the problem does not go away completely. In fact, if poorly implemented, these methodologies even will contribute to the failure of a project.


Any Project Methodology is typically a one way process, though sometimes iterative, moves from one phase to the next when project’s stake holders, at each phase of the project, sign off on required deliverables.


This article will demonstrate a simple technique, “A Two- Way Requirements verification process”, which reinforces the most critical connection point of any methodology: the transition between functional design or requirement sign off and the beginning of the technical design by the technical team. It is also a concept, which enhances the communication between business users and technical team.


Process Description


Any agile methodology expects the organization to employ the right resources that are trained in the specific areas such as business analysis. Yet, many projects suffer from too many defects in the Q&A stage due to coding errors or misunderstood requirements, which often result in more work. The latter sometimes can even kill the project as this process can be caught in a vicious loop. One of the primary reasons for such failures is often due to lack of proper communication between the two most important groups of resources of any project; business users who would use the software product for their day-to-day business processes and the development resources who produce such product. The tips suggested in this article will help architects, business analysts or other senior resources, who act as the bridge between these two groups, to improve and enrich the process at each phase.


Figure 1, shown below, depicts a typical process with deliverables at each phase of the methodology and the required resources to produce the artifacts. The improved process is depicted shaded in green. This example is demonstrated using the Rational Unified Process (RUP). Any agile methodology or home-grown SDLC can utilize the concept demonstrated here.


Development Phases and Processes:

Key Improvements

  1. 2a – Detail Requirement or Functional Design: Verify the
    functional design by using Activity Diagrams, which will be
    derived from Use Case Flows. The review needs to be done not
    only with business analysts but also with the business
    users. The discussion can be facilitated by Business
    Analysts.

    • a. The purpose is to review with the business from
      technical perspective without technical language.



  2. 2b – Candidate Architecture and Technical Design: This
    is the key area where critical 2-way requirements
    verification needs to happen in an iterative way.

    • a. Using the Activity Diagrams developed in the previous
      phase, review the functional flow for the following
      conditions. Hint: Technical team needs to ask questions as
      if they are writing code.

      • i. Error Conditions for functional or business logic
        failures, technical failures and the relevant user
        experience expected under such conditions.

      • ii. Try to get the severe defects that occurred in all
        the business areas in production and use them to shape the
        questions. It also, forces business users to bring similar
        information to the table.
        Example: While designing a
        retail banking site or any transaction site for credit card
        payments, try to see what kind of problems other functional
        areas of the bank had faced and what other banks are doing.
        This type of forum can also present an opportunity to quiz
        or offer suggestions to business users about different or
        better options from ever changing compliance, regulations
        and/or from security perspective.

      • iii. Repeat the process while doing the technical
        design.

      • iv. Make sure Business Analysts and Business Users will
        review final artifacts and sign off.


    • b. Technical team needs to lead the discussion. The best
      results can be obtained if this is done as a Joint
      Application Development (JAD) process.


  3. 2c – Detail Technical Design: While finishing up the
    technical design, complete the Unit Tests with some business
    scenarios as much as possible. Review them with business
    analysts and business users.
    • a. Take advantage of QA groups and involve QA resource
      at this stage to develop the unit tests.

  4. 3- Construction: Code Development and Unit Testing:
    Since it is common to do a mini Elaboration Phase at the
    beginning of the construction phase, make sure the above
    points are discussed at each of these mini elaboration
    phases.

Conclusion


This is a simple yet powerful technique if used properly.
This is not a silver bullet for all the problems but would
certainly help to minimize the risk and defects and puts the
focus on key aspects of any software solution
development.

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