Lessons learned 1: Emerging requirements.
Problem: Requirements do not exist. They are emerging and often become incorrect and therefore constant change of requirements happens.
Context: Our goal is to ensure project’ success and client’s satisfaction. In order to achieve this goal our delivered solution must solve our client’s problems and satisfy our client’s needs. Unfortunately many clients do not know exactly what they want because they want to try a new business process or would like to enhance their current daily business workflow but the new process or workflow has not been defined yet. They would like us to build something for them to try, then if it does not work in real world then they will switch to something else.
The issue becomes even worse when they do not have time to review our prototype and await a quite complete solution.
Sometimes they consider our prototype a complete solution and want us to revise it around their constant changes for production although the architecture limits of the prototype make it very time consuming for such revision or even prevent us from doing such revision. These limits exist because we only build the prototype for the envisioned requirements, not for the endless changes.
- Analysis and communication are critical to ensure that our deliverables match with client’s needs. It does not matter whether we use RUP or Agile process for development. It does not matter whether we use UML, or boxes and lines, or text, or coded prototypes or paper and pen for describing the problems that need to be solved. Our client and analyst must review, refine and confirm problem specification regularly.
- Otherwise formal requirements should be modeled, reviewed and approved before design begins to ensure that our project will deliver solution to the right problems.
Lessons learned 2: Vague requirements.
Problem: Requirements are described vaguely and therefore are implemented incorrectly and many detailed elements are missing.
Context: Our clients often just give what they have. It can be a video demo of their existing legacy systems, a list of what they want, some screenshots captured from other similar systems, a long conversation in an email thread, some phone calls. We build a solution based on these artifacts and it turns out that they want something completely different or many detailed requirements are missing.
- Our responsibility is to clarify our client’s problems and needs. Again analysis is an important tool to clarify our client’s problems and needs. Early requirements can be described in any form, including phone calls, emails, screenshots, video demo, feature list. However all of them should then be refined properly using use cases, user interfaces, domain models, workflows, story map and prototypes for client to review regularly.
- Sometimes we are stuck at analysis, especially when we analyze integration or enhancement needs that have not existed yet and require creativity. In this case a dirty prototype and a proof of concept or small technical exercises should be done so that we can have inputs for inspiring ideas for analysis.
Lessons learned 3: Requirements dispute.
Problem: Requirements are described only at business level, and therefore many detailed elements are not implemented. However customer does not have time to review the implemented system. When the project is in transition phase it turns out that most of the implemented requirements are non-compliant.
Context: In order to reduce development time and cost many teams just take business requirements and implement them. They may create a work break down structure or a detailed task list for completing these business requirements. However these tasks just describe HOW a business requirement is implemented, NOT WHAT it should be. It means that both USER functional and non-function requirements of a BUSINESS requirement are not analyzed. The situation become bad when it costs too much for a customer to review an implemented business requirement regularly, so the customer just let the teams finish their work. When the project is in the transition phase it turns out that many details of user requirements are not implemented.
- Critical business requirements must be refined into appropriate user stories or use cases.
- Non-function requirements must be incorporated as notes into each story or use case.
- Adequate UI sketches (mock-ups) or prototypes or captured screens should be created.
- Test cases should be created and agreed to validate requirements.
- A single repository for all requirements should be used for change management and traceability.
- Architecture and/or proof of concept should be created to discover integration limits of specific requirements.
- User manual should be created for each business requirement.
- More importantly, frequent requirements and system validation should be done by a customer if possible to improve the understanding about requirements and prevent communication gaps, especially when an Agile development method is selected to reduce the time and cost. Customer’s assessment must be done regularly (at least weekly, preferred daily if an Agile method is selected), not just once when the project is about to be closed.